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Government warned not to waste legacy of Birmingham Commonwealth Games

Government warned not to waste legacy of Birmingham Commonwealth Games

  • Tanni Grey-Thompson says London 2012 offered ‘false hope’
  • British sporting success has not inspired public to get active

Last modified on Tue 12 Oct 2021 12.27 EDT

Success in elite sport has not inspired ordinary Britons to become more active, the government will be told on Wednesday, and it must seize the moment to ensure that the participation legacy of the 2022 Commonwealth Games is not squandered as it was after London 2012.

In a notable intervention Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s greatest Paralympians, will say “false hope” was created by promises that major sporting events, such as the London Olympics, would transform the nation’s fitness.

Grey-Thompson – the head of the industry body ukactive, which represents more than 4,000 gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres – will urge the government to use the focal point of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham to create a ‘shared vision’ to get five million people exercising more regularly by 2030.

“I want to see us create a partnership that sees the government use all the levers at its disposal to support the sector’s development and enable more people to be active,” she will tell the ukactive conference on Wednesday. “It could lead to a global event such as the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 having a greater legacy for activity than London 2012 ever had. This is something our government has in its grasp. Let us not squander this opportunity which would be transformative for our nation.”

Last year the Sport England Active Lives survey found that nearly 14 million adults did less than 30 minutes of exercise a week – with the poor, elderly and ethnic groups particularly affected. However Grey-Thompson believes the fitness sector can affect change with the help of more government investment, reform of the business rates system, and a commitment to help more people from low income backgrounds to be active.

“Far too often the debate on elite sport, inspiration and population in activity have been conflated,” she will tell delegates which will include the new culture secretary, Nadine Dorries. “This conflation is to the detriment of everyone and means our sector has fallen short of playing its fullest role in society. Because it has created false hopes on matters such as ‘legacy’ from major sporting moments.

“It has also deflected important focus away from the parts of our sector that are the lead drivers of activity on a mass scale with fitness and leisure being one of them, alongside walking, cycling, and running. And that’s where sharing our ambition for growth with the government is what we must seek and achieve. It would have a transformative impact on the major issue of inactivity we face as a nation.”

On Monday the Commonwealth Games announced a radical bid to protect the future of the event which will result in the number of compulsory sports being cut from 16 to two – athletics and swimming. With Games bosses struggling to convince cities to bid for the event, potential hosts will be allowed greater freedom to select urban and esports in a bid to appeal to younger audiences.

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