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Study suggests Olympic effect is rather more limited than we'd like to think.....

A new study has questioned how much the Olympic Games really inspires ordinary people to take up sport, with only 7 per cent of people saying they had been motivated by them.

London’s 2012 Olympic bid was underpinned by the idea that young people would want to follow in the medallists’ footsteps and be more active, but the survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the company Pro Bono Economics found it had not had the intended effect.

7% of 2,000 respondents said they had been inspired to take up sport by the Olympics. Of the rest, 18% blamed their busy lifestyle for their failure to get active; 17% cited the cost of playing sport as being the main thing stopping them; 12% claimed a lack of local facilities. Another 12% said they simply lacked the confidence to participate in sport.

The respondents also cast doubt on the approach taken by UK Sport for funding, where sports with the best prospect of winning medals are prioritised.

Only 7% backed this approach while 9% said the money would be better spent on schemes targeting those who do not exercise enough.

The Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson told the Guardian: “In the UK we like to think we are a nation that loves sport but perhaps we are more of a nation who loves watching sport.

“We know there is a disconnect between elite sport and participation. Currently inactivity costs the nation £20bn a year so this is not something we can keep putting off.

“Unless we look more creatively about how we engage everyone in physical activity, we may win medals but we will be bottom of the league table on health and wellbeing.”

The annual Active People Survey, which notes the number of people participating in moderate physical activity at least once a month, found that the population share of those who did so has deceased from 57.4% to 57% over the last 10 years.

On the other hand, the number of people who do moderate exercise at least three times a week has continued to rise, meaning the active portion of the population is becoming ever more active.

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

14 comments

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MikeOnABike [100 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes

BREAKING NEWS.... Water is wet!

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SingleSpeed [233 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

Team GB have inspired me to support Australia in the Track Cycling.

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davel [1135 posts] 2 months ago
4 likes

Facilities, facilities, facilities.

Only 12% might have blamed the lack of facilities directly, but if a large number of people had decent, cheap/free facilities within reach, seems to me that'd tackle another couple of major complaints.

A friend of mine lives in a nondescript mid California town, round the corner from a run-of-the-mill state middle school, which is next to an equally run-of-the-mill high school. The middle school has a 400m shale running track, 6 basketball courts, 6 tennis courts, and a 200m grass track. The high-school next-door has another 6 basketball courts, a full-size American football pitch/stadium with 2 stands, an 8-lane tartan running track around the pitch, 4 baseball pitches and 2 'soccer' pitches. They're available for use by the locals outside school hours - and they do use them. He tells me this is pretty typical of his experience of the US.

Round the corner from me in NW England: a slightly American-feeling park with a basketball court, skate park and running track. Always busy. I'm a big believer in 'if you build it, they will come'. Not the entrenched fatties, and England and California have plenty of them, but if we don't build it, sell off our school playing fields and make PE optional, it doesn't matter how many Olympic Games we host: a large chunk of the population treating sport as alien is the completely predictable outcome.

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srchar [344 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

People who like to watch sport on TV don't participate in sport shocker...

If "they" want to encourage cycling, it would be far better to spend some money on decent infrastructure.  Even then, I have a sneaking suspicion that most people who don't exercise simply can't be arsed.

"18% blamed their busy lifestyle for their failure to get active" - in other words, they'd rather watch the telly.

"17% cited the cost of playing sport as being the main thing stopping them" - when going for a walk, or doing a few burpees/press-ups/sit-ups/planks at home is free.

"12% claimed a lack of local facilities" - do they not have a room in their home that is big enough to lay down in?

"9% said the money would be better spent on schemes targeting those who do not exercise enough" - I would love to know what these schemes would actually involve.

As usual, some people blaming everyone but themselves for their own lack of fitness.

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davel [1135 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
srchar wrote:

People who like to watch sport on TV don't participate in sport shocker...

If "they" want to encourage cycling, it would be far better to spend some money on decent infrastructure.  Even then, I have a sneaking suspicion that most people who don't exercise simply can't be arsed.

"18% blamed their busy lifestyle for their failure to get active" - in other words, they'd rather watch the telly.

"17% cited the cost of playing sport as being the main thing stopping them" - when going for a walk, or doing a few burpees/press-ups/sit-ups/planks at home is free.

"12% claimed a lack of local facilities" - do they not have a room in their home that is big enough to lay down in?

"9% said the money would be better spent on schemes targeting those who do not exercise enough" - I would love to know what these schemes would actually involve.

As usual, some people blaming everyone but themselves for their own lack of fitness.

The survey was about participation in sport, no?

I get your point about exercise, but doing star-jumps in front of Coronation St isn't really sport, is it? And while my northern wing already has a velodrome, swimming pool and 5-aside pitch, and I'm sure you have something similar, I'm told some people's houses don't have the room for such amenities.

If that's true, those poor oiks really do need community facilities.

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Awavey [267 posts] 2 months ago
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people arent blaming anyone for their own lack of fitness, the point of the survey is to judge the impact of the olympics, and olympic success paid for by UK Sport, on attitude towards taking up sport, the whole inspire the next generation thing. Even if the sample size is probably too low to draw much from it, its probably not unreasonable to conclude that simply watching success at an olympics, doesnt encourage people to take up a sport as a result, and thats the issue.

and thats probably because theres very little done in conversion post Olympics to take those successes out to people who arent involved in sport at all. It was something I noticed both at the 2012 Olympics and TdF in Yorkshire, people were very involved in wanting to be part of the events, because the event was the key thing to them, very few then converted to picking up those sports as a result of it.

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Yorkshie Whippet [581 posts] 2 months ago
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No because I know it doesn't matter how hard I try I will never have the opportunity to be that good.

The UK loves corporate entertainment where lots of people pay to go to an event, get hammered and never actually see the action but claim they were there.

As mentioned in another post, people like being there. Actually getting sweaty or mucky is frowned upon.

Then you have to put down culture. Tell people I'm riding 100 miles including 27 sectors of pave. I'm told I'm mad. Tell people I'm not prepared to ride in freezing rain and 30 mile winds, I'm a wuss.

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Simon E [2985 posts] 2 months ago
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I wonder what the age range of the 2,000 respondents was and what social groups they belonged to. And of the 7% that were inspired it would be interesting to find out (1) what activity they took up and (2) how long it lasted.

Are people really inspired by sport on TV? How many blokes put the beer down and go out and play footie as a result of watching the Euros? The football fans I know are all overweight couch potatoes.

Does Mastermind inspire anyone to spend months memorising every detail of an author's life and work? Do people build/renovate a house after watching Escape to the Country or DIY SOS? Television is entertainment, something to keep you on the couch and save you having to think for or go out and do stuff yourself.

"17% cited the cost of playing sport as being the main thing stopping them". Which sport(s)? A pair of trainers or a football is not a big outlay.

My wife always argues that one of the biggest influences on participation as an adult is a your experience of sport/PE at school. She was marginalised and bullied for being crap at the usual sports. If you were not good at running, jumping or kicking a ball then you were considered a no-hoper and PE teachers, invariably 'sporty' people, often fail to grasp that it should primarily be fun.

If UK Sport want to encourage greater participation they should look at communities, grassroots clubs, facilities and the increasing pressure on public spaces - most importantly, the suffocating effect of motorised traffic on mobility, whether in towns and cities or rural areas.

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Leviathan [2473 posts] 2 months ago
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srchar wrote:

People who like to watch sport on TV don't participate in sport shocker...

I conducted a poll and found your conclusion to be false [sample size =1.]

The pool of people who are interested in doing sport as exercise/leisure/competition is always going to be limited. You are preaching to the choir. We are really only talking about 50/100  12 to 14 years olds  (or even younger) we need to get through to 'inspire' to think they might be able to be good enough to reach the top. Football gets non stop promotion. Why bash the Olympics, sure it isn't cost effective, it's culture. 

I was watching a video on youtube about Pastrami making in NYC, and thought, all of this is a waste of time if a comet is heading in our direction. Very few humans are actually involved in 'progress.' But life has a bit more to it than getting us off the planet. Sport is just another drama to distract us, and is just as valid an entertainment as The West Wing, or a Ruben Sandwich. It doesn't have to get you off the sofa if you are not minded to do so already.

Sorry for the Reddit level philosophy. A few run on sentences there too.

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DaveE128 [805 posts] 2 months ago
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I wonder whether part of the reason for the figures is getting active vs doing sport. I have little desire to compete in any form of cycling beyond the occasional Strava segment (lol) and yet I think the Olympics did play some role in helping inslire me to get active and enjoy cycling, having become a bit of a couch potato for a few years.

I just don't think this survey covers a lot of the benefits.

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Jacobi [171 posts] 2 months ago
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I agree with Davel when he writes facilities, facilities, facilities.

Where I live the local high school was built using PFI. Anyone who wants to use the facilities outside school hours has to pay the company who owns the school.

Re people taking up sports: IMO kids have to be taught and encouraged to try different sports at an early age in schools. During my school years we had a choice of football or football. The government needs to plough money into school facilities here.  The government claims inactivity costs the country £20 billion a year. Put up the facilities and encourage our kids to excel at a sport when they're young and they'll take it into adulthood saving the NHS a fortune.

We need to be more like the USA where kids can get scholarships for excelling at just about every sport imagineable, athletics , golf,  football, baseball, boxing, swimming etc, etc. You name it, they teach it and give scholarships for it. IMO the main thing that holds our kids back is not having the opportunity through lack of facilities.

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srchar [344 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
davel wrote:

The survey was about participation in sport, no? I get your point about exercise, but doing star-jumps in front of Coronation St isn't really sport, is it? And while my northern wing already has a velodrome, swimming pool and 5-aside pitch, and I'm sure you have something similar, I'm told some people's houses don't have the room for such amenities. If that's true, those poor oiks really do need community facilities.

You are of course correct davel - I have missed the point, somewhat intentionally.  I suppose what I should have said is that enjoying "sport" is, for most Brits, a passive activity; either something enjoyed with family at home, on a big screen in the pub, or as a sideshow to an all-day bender.  If the Olympics makes the country feel good about itself for a few weeks and if even a handful of people are inspired to dedicate themselves to a particular event and go on to become a successful Olympian and make us all feel good again in 12-16 years, it has done its job.

What the great unfit must be inspired to do is simply make better choices about diet and exercise. Who by? I'm not sure.  I agree with you that this survey doesn't really cover that, but I've been off the bike for a while and thought I'd have a rant anyway. Blame the lack of endorphins. And self-control. Maybe I'm not all that different to the couch potatoes after all...

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Mungecrundle [629 posts] 2 months ago
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I don't think it is all doom and gloom. Despite the lack of sports facilities, the cost and the aspiration of so many to sit on the couch wishing for the lifestyles of reality TV personalities. Every community seems to also have some commited individuals who run local football, running, cycling, martial arts, badminton etc clubs and who give hundreds of hours of their free time to make it happen. The most important part of getting involved in sport i.e other people to do it with who will welcome and support you regardless of ability or potential, is alive and healthy in the British mentality of self organisation.

Wether the Olympics specifically inspires more than a few to pursue elite sport is somewhat irrelevent. I think it has a wider message about humanity being able to organise an international event that doesn't involve lobbing munitions at each other. I look forward to the Olympics and Paralympics in the same way that people who like football look forward to the World Cup or people who like film stars look forward to the Oscars.

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davel [1135 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes
Jacobi wrote:

I agree with Davel when he writes facilities, facilities, facilities.

Where I live the local high school was built using PFI. Anyone who wants to use the facilities outside school hours has to pay the company who owns the school.

Re people taking up sports: IMO kids have to be taught and encouraged to try different sports at an early age in schools. During my school years we had a choice of football or football. The government needs to plough money into school facilities here.  The government claims inactivity costs the country £20 billion a year. Put up the facilities and encourage our kids to excel at a sport when they're young and they'll take it into adulthood saving the NHS a fortune.

We need to be more like the USA where kids can get scholarships for excelling at just about every sport imagineable, athletics , golf,  football, baseball, boxing, swimming etc, etc. You name it, they teach it and give scholarships for it. IMO the main thing that holds our kids back is not having the opportunity through lack of facilities.

... and of course remember the hand-wringing in the media at the last couple of Olympics where the UK medal-winners were disproportionately from private schools, which tend to have access to good facilities and push opportunities to use them.