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Athletics participation surges as the Games come to London
As London prepares to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games a survey by Sport England has shown how participation in athletics is on the up before the first event has even started.
The Sport England Active People 6 Survey (April 2011 to April 2012) showed that participation in athletics had grown to 1.982 million people taking part – an increase of 4%. London has led the way with more than 45,000 additional people taking part in athletics across the capital in this period – a 13% increase.
England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones said, “As a sport we have always known that to achieve a growth in participation as a legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games we could not afford to wait for the Games to begin. Over recent years clubs, volunteers and staff have been working together to give people new opportunities to take part in athletics in all its guises, and to ensure the experience they have in the sport is a positive and enjoyable one.
“When Sport England’s first Active People survey took place back in 2006-7 the figure of people taking part in athletics for 30min once a week was 1.3million. The growth since then has been in part due to the interest generated by the Games, but more importantly there has been the provision of activities on the ground to enable people to get involved. The number of athletics competition licence holders in the sport has also now grown to more than 120,000 and we want to build on this momentum over the coming months and years.
“It is particularly satisfying to see the figures for London including the inner London Boroughs where in the past opportunities for participation have been limited. We are very grateful for the support of the London Mayor’s Office and local partners who work with us on our Run! project that has given many people in London opportunities to get involved in athletics that otherwise would not exist.”
England Athletics London Council Chair Tony Shiret said, “London has a great heritage in athletics with many of the leading clubs and well established Schools Associations. But people living in the Inner Boroughs have not had the same access to the sport historically. The Run! project, which is a major beneficiary of the Mayor’s Sports Legacy programme, is trying to change that by increasing opportunities in the Inner Boroughs.
“Between February 2011 and July 2012 there were more than 60,000 attendances at Run! events, 366 volunteers recruited into the sport, with 100 people becoming qualified as Leaders in Running fitness and 59 Run England groups set up. This is now being reflected in figures such as the Active People survey. We hope it is also making an impact on the lives of those people who are now gaining fulfilment from the sport and making their own contribution to the growing world of athletics.
“Run! works in a different way matching the needs of Inner City participants. Whether it is laying a temporary track in a high street, setting up a running group or other types of sessions we are constantly looking for the best ways to bring more people into athletics. The longer term effects of this approach are beginning to be seen with our established clubs with heritages stretching back many decades being joined by new urban clubs such as Run Dem Crew and S-Factor. We have achieved this with a highly motivated team of just 10 Activators under the management of Rhian Horlock and the London Development Manager, Bob Smith.”