Last summer, after the Rio Olympic Games, we celebrated Team GB’s successes and asked “why is Team GB so good?”. We concluded that elite sport and grassroots sport are inextricably linked – without grassroots sport there would simply be no elite sportsmen and women – but the recent funding allocations for Tokyo 2020 have highlighted a disconnect between the relentless quest for medals and participation at grassroots level. So we wanted to look at the other side of the argument – should we as a nation, in the face of a growing problem with inactivity, ease off on our Olympic obsession for better access to sport at grassroots level?
From one meagre medal to medals galore
There is no doubt the change in approach has worked for our elite athletes. UK Sport has always pointed to the frankly amazing results of their “no compromise” approach, which turned a now barely-believable one gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 Games into 65 medals at London 2012 and 67 medals at the Rio Games.
But as the glorious glow of British triumph gradually subsides, we are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of this relentless pursuit of success.
Questions have also been raised over whether spending £25m and £17m on sailing and equestrianism, sports broadly perceived to be elitist and largely inaccessible, is the best use of public funding – especially when some cheaper sports such as archery, as well as some Paralympics sports, have completely lost out.
Most Britons would prefer grassroots funding to medals
A recent survey revealed three quarters of the UK would rather the money was spent on grassroots sport than Olympic medals. Critically, the survey also showed the main barriers to people participating in sport are that they are often too expensive to take up, there are no local facilities, or that facilities are underfunded and simply not up to scratch.
One of the report’s co-authors, Simon Kuper, believes the UK has got sport “upside down” and says the system needs an overhaul.
Why spend billions on an Olympics when few kids in the country have the facilities to play judo, fencing or equestrianism anywhere near their homes? In many neighbourhoods it’s hard even to find a decent football field.
Unless we adopt a more imaginative approach about how we engage everyone in physical activity, we will continue to win medals but we will find ourselves bottom of the league table on health and wellbeing and top of the league when it comes to childhood obesity.
No correlation between medals and participation
That sporting role models are important is not in doubt, but while the feelgood factor in Britain during successful Olympic Games is intoxicating, there is little correlation between medal success and participation. The glut of medals has not prevented Britain becoming increasingly obese or sedentary – a survey in 2015, for example, found 62.9% of adults are overweight or obese.
British sporting success on an international stage undoubtedly makes us feel better about ourselves, but it masks a crisis in grassroots sport, and does little to address the wider concerns about the health of British people. It is a sort of escapism – an escapism from a real life that tells us we’re getting more and more unfit. We believe at the very least there is a compromise to be struck – it is vital that grassroots sport in this country is properly funded and that the funding is poured into making participation in grassroots sport as accessible as possible.
KUDOS IS PASSIONATE ABOUT SUPPORTING GRASSROOTS SPORT
KUDOS loves to encourage adults and children from all backgrounds to take part in grassroots sporting activity.
KUDOS SPORTS – A LEADING SUPPLIER OF CUSTOM SPORTS KIT
KUDOS is proud to supply kit to a variety of sports clubs up and down country – custom teamwear and bespoke custom kit that is built for performance and worn with pride.