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Charity calls for UK cities of sport to match cities of culture | Sport


A charity is calling on the government to set up a sport version of UK City of Culture to boost participation, after a two-year inquiry into the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Spirit of 2012 charity said a new UK City of Sport competition would boost the population’s health, increase volunteering and bridge social divides.

The recommendation is part of the findings of the charity’s two-year national inquiry into the legacy of the 2012 Games, published on Monday, which also called for better long-term planning, more funding and more use of volunteers to ensure events have a lasting impact.

“The ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach of assuming people will watch and be inspired to become more active doesn’t work, but intentional long-term planning, like a City of Sport competition, can help with a sustained approach to community involvement in getting and staying active,” the report states.

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, who chaired the inquiry, said the 2012 Olympics “could have made even more impact with a different approach”.

“Too often organisers approach events like fast fashion, with all the focus on what to wear on the night only to then toss all that effort away,” he said. “The UK’s reputation for executing world-class events has gone from strength to strength, but we’re still missing out on some of the really long-term benefits of that investment.”

The charity said that events such as last year’s Commonwealth Games, Coventry’s City of Culture, the Women’s Euros and the late Queen’s Jubilee, as well as the coronation of King Charles III and the Eurovision song contest this year, should be “catalysts for wider change”.

Bill Morris, an International Olympic Committee adviser and a Spirit of 2012 board member, said a UK City of Sport could act as a “hook around which you carefully curate the agencies involved in helping a community focus on its health and wellbeing”.

“There are some principles that we’ve seen in the city of culture models that can be applied in a city of sport proposal. We’re not just talking about a city of sport which, in that particular year, gains all the big elite sport events,” he said.

“It will be a City of Sport which brings together some elite sporting competition and the heritage of that region, but focuses particularly on health and wellbeing, and giving everybody from every different community and every different ability the opportunity and the motivation to feel active.”

The inquiry also recommended the creation of a UK research-based “events observatory”, dedicated to gathering evidence and data on the long-term impact of events.

“I don’t think anyone still imagines that just by putting sport on TV, we’ll all suddenly become fit and healthy and take up the sport, that just doesn’t happen,” said Morris. “But that’s not to say there isn’t a role for great sporting events, they are fantastic motivators, you just have to put all the other bits of the jigsaw in place.”

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