The London 2012 Olympics failed to lead to a significant long-term increase in the number of people in England taking part in grassroots sports, a report by MPs has found.
While the games were seen as a sporting success – the British team won a record 29 gold medals – and provided a boost to the economy, they failed to create a lasting fitness legacy, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said. The report said the games, which cost £8.8 billion to produce, had generated an economic value of £14.2 billion by 2014.
However, national sports participation declined in the three years after the Games, the study said without providing any figures, and rebounded only slightly between 2016 and 2019 with the number of adults rated as “active” rising by 1, 2 percentage points to just over 63 percent.
The report was critical of Sport England, the government-linked agency responsible for developing sport and involving more of the population. It found the body had paid out around £1.5bn in grants since 2016, but only tracked the final destination of just £450m of that money, with the rest distributed to national organisations, charities and other bodies.
Labor MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said that apart from the financial benefits, there was “precious little” to show as a legacy, even in parts of her east London that hosted the 2012 Games.
She described the 1.2 percentage point increase in active adults in England as “miserable” and called on the government to draw up plans to tackle the problem. “More waste, more waste of desperately needed public money. While the cost of living crisis bites hard, [government] she has to determine what she will do differently to achieve change where she has failed,” added Hillier.
Giving evidence to the committee, Sport England said it had relied too heavily on a major national event and building new facilities to encourage greater public participation, but was now focusing on how to motivate inactive people to exercise.
He also worked to build on the legacy of last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the success of the England women’s football team in winning the European Championship.
For example, a £3 million program in the West Midlands to tackle inactivity helped almost 75,000 people get active after the Commonwealth Games, which cost £778 million to run.
The report also warned that Sport England had “no understanding” of the financial support Britain’s aging leisure infrastructure needed during the cost of living crisis, with energy bills for the sector expected to rise from £500m in 2019 to between 1 billion and 1.2 pounds. bn last year.
Around 70 per cent of local councils were considering cutting their leisure services as a result, the commission heard, warning that many public sports facilities were in poor condition, including 45 per cent of tennis courts in public parks considered to be in poor condition, very poor or unplayable condition.
The government said it has allocated £1bn to support the leisure sector during the Covid-19 pandemic and recently announced £320m for schools and more than £260m to build or upgrade thousands of local facilities.
“We will soon publish a new sports strategy setting out our ambition to continue to increase activity rates and we will respond to the committee’s report in due course.”