Thursday, September 13, 2012

Life after London: Our Legacy in Wales

London 2012 has been special for Wales. We sent a record contingent of 68 athletes to the Olympics and Paralympics. They duly repaid us with a tremendous haul of seven medals at the Olympics (three gold, three silver and a bronze) and 15 Paralympic medals. Welsh sport is firmly on the map. Simon Grant takes a look at just where that could lead us in terms of a meaningful lasting legacy.

If ever there were a physical conduit for bringing Sport Wales’ ambitions to fruition then London 2012 is it. How many youngsters will have been hooked on sport for life after seeing Jade Jones high kick her way to an exhilarating gold medal and then bound joyously round the ExCel Arena with the Welsh flag billowing behind her and a stellar future ahead of her?

How many future champions will be inspired by the superhuman triumphs of Geraint, Tom, Hannah, Chris, Fred and Sarah? At the very least they’ll know them on first name terms after sharing in the exultation of their achievements. And what will our inspired generation have made of those who struggled on defiantly, despite injury; the Helen’s and Dai’s? They’ll surely have learnt that inherent Welsh trait of ‘never say die…Dai!’

History will be the ultimate judge but several themes have emerged as the potential legacy highpoints for Wales following these epic home Games.

Emerging Talent
The future is bright. The future is Wales. You might not know it but 18 of the 30 Welsh Olympians were making their Olympic debut and 12 of those were under the age of 23. A staggering 50% of our 38 Paralympic athletes are making their debut, including 15-year-old swimmer Morgyn Peters.

Aled Davies: Winning gold in the F42 Discus © Roger Bool   
“Essentially, these Games have shown that there is a plethora of young talent emerging, and waiting in the wings, that can and will be nurtured to ensure that we continue to see Welsh athletes standing proud on podiums at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and beyond,” says Sport Wales chair, Professor Laura McAllister.

“These have also been dubbed the ‘Girls’ Games,’ with the unprecedentedly high proportion of success coming from female athletes who, for the first time ever, competed in every event. Girls across Wales now have more inspiring role models to look up to than ever before and we hope that this can spark a chain reaction of lots more participation and enjoyment of sport.”

Finding the next tier of athletes to follow in the footsteps of our elite athletes begins now by translating the interest in the Games into mass participation at the grassroots level.

“London 2012 has undoubtedly been a huge advertising campaign for sport,” Laura adds.

“The sheer numbers of people supporting Team GB and getting into the Olympic spirit are testament to that. We’ve been working with our partners to ensure that interest has been – and continues to be – harnessed here in Wales; to ensure that any child who has been inspired by what they have seen is able to get involved in their chosen sport, and ultimately, stay hooked for life.”

Sustained Investment
Funding: Available for local legacy
Steps have already been taken to ensure that the Games are maximised in Wales with extra Lottery funding, including new Calls for Action funding which can grant awards of between £50,000 and £150,000 for projects that make a real impact in the community.

“Through our Community Sport Strategy we have already committed an additional investment of £9million from the National Lottery to help develop much wider opportunities for not just children and young people, but adults, to access both formal and recreational sport,” says Professor McAllister.

“In total this means that we will be injecting a total of almost £32m a year into community sport in Wales. We’re also in a fortunate position in that the Welsh Government are committed to our vision for sport in Wales and see London 2012 as a golden opportunity to get the nation involved.”

Quality Education
That grassroots momentum is hugely dependant on the education system and its vital role in nurturing positive first experiences of sport.

Laura adds: “We cannot underestimate the importance of schools in getting Wales’ children hooked on sport, and in particular the influence of head teachers.

“Those that embrace the importance of vibrant school sport - and are passionate about it - place sport high on the agenda, ensuring that opportunities reflect the needs of children and link with their communities and local clubs to keep them engaged once their school days are over.

School sport: Vital for positive first experiences of sport
“There are some fantastic examples of where this is working and working well but we need to see it across the board if Wales is to witness a significant increase in the numbers of young people playing sport. Whether it is through two hours of high quality PE every week, an improvement in teacher training or priority placed on developing basic skills from the earliest age, a significant shift is needed and we’re committed to making that happen.”

Our Paralympians and Olympians can deservedly bask in the glow of adulation that will undoubtedly outpour from the amassed Welsh AMs and adoring public, at the Senedd homecoming on 14 September.

They can be doubly proud of not only their own stellar achievements but also to consider themselves part of an unashamedly ambitious Welsh system that will keep building on their successes for many years to come.

For more information about Sport Wales and how to apply for Calls for Action, or any other, funding visit