BY LAURA MCALLISTER, CHAIR OF SPORT WALES:
We’ve had a few questions on Twitter recently asking what the Games legacy will be for Wales.
It seems to me that arguments over the cost of the Games or whether Wales should be hosting more of the events are for the past. For now and the future it is about what we all make of the Games and the real, tangible legacy for sport in Wales.
Here I outline some of the key sporting benefits….
I’ve always been firmly committed to the notion that London 2012 will be the biggest marketing campaign for sport we’ll ever see in Wales and the UK.
But of course we all need to be ready to capture the sporting demand that the Games will create – in our communities and in our schools.
This week, our local authority partners have been working hard to stage sporting come and try sessions and festivals as the Olympic Torch Relay journeys through Wales.
Just to give you some examples, Blaenau Gwent have today been staging an Olympic Village at Blaenycwm School. Opening once the Torch Relay has passed through, community partners are offering a range of sporting activities.
World Sports Day at Pontypool Active Living Centre will see more than 700 children from across Torfaen involved in sporting activity.
Outside Newport Centre, the public will be able to try out various Olympic related sports activities such as basketball, rowing, cycling, boxing and hockey.
And that’s just today (Friday 25 May 2012). Similar activities are being organised right along the Torch Relay route.
I’m delighted that there is a commitment to embrace and accommodate the interest in sport. It’s vital that children turning out to catch a glimpse of the Torch can also be tempted to try out a range of sports.
Of course, we cannot stop once the Torch leaves Wales or once the Games come to a close in September. London 2012 comes at a time when the sports sector in Wales is being very ambitious and is coming together to get every child hooked on sport for life.
Our Community Sport Strategy, launched in April will focus partners on getting every child hooked on sport for life. An extra £9million of National Lottery funding will be channelled through our Community Strategy over the next three years. That takes our annual investment into community sport up to around £32m a year.
The Strategy sets out clear priorities to enable a dramatic shift in the range and number of people involved in local sport. You can find out more here.
We want Wales to be world renowned as a successful sporting nation where winning is expected. The idea is that any child seeing their heroes competing and winning will be able to have a go at the sport themselves.
When Dai Greene won gold at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu last year, his home Swansea Harriers club received countless calls from parents and people wanting to give athletics a try. We need to be ready for this demand.
It is up to everyone to grasp the opportunity to make a lasting change at all levels of participation.
We’ve been funding clubs in a way that helps them to thrive and take advantage of London 2012 while the profile of sport in the run up to the Games has also helped us showcase the benefits of physical literacy alongside reading and writing in school. This will be one of the most important pieces of work in Welsh sport moving forward after the Games.
I’m particularly excited by our London 2012 Young Ambassadors – these are young people in our schools and colleges who are role models and champions of sport for their peers. A direct legacy of the Games.
Central to the Young Ambassador programme is the principle that young people can drive opportunity, engagement and change for all young people to be involved in sport.
The role of a Young Ambassador involves increasing participation in school sport and PE, spreading the word of the Olympic and Paralympic Values - respect, friendship, excellence, courage, determination, inspiration and equality - and promoting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Working in partnership with Youth Sport Trust and other bodies, this work has been a breath of fresh air. They certainly challenge me and my colleagues at Sport Wales about how we listen to and engage young people in our decision making.
There are other legacy projects such as Gemau Cymru – a multi sport event for young athletes of Wales, organised by the Urdd. This year it is held on the weekend of 13-15 July 2012 in different locations around Cardiff. It captures the inspiration of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
It gives young athletes a fantastic opportunity to compete against their peers. We all know that to succeed on the elite stage, the chance to compete against those who are at a similar level of talent is absolutely vital .
More than 100 exceptional projects have been inspired by the Games to do something special in their local communities. They are using the Games as the inspiration to make real and lasting change. You can find out more here.
And there’s more...
From adizones around Wales to Pre Games Training Camps and the Get Set educational programme, there is so much more that is happening. You can find out more about that here...
It comes down to sparking interest among the children of Wales who all have a right to the opportunity to play sport.
And you can’t really put money on that…