Do you remember the Olympic Legacy first touted in Singapore, when London was awarded the games in 2005, and which continued to be promoted into 2012, when London hosted the Greatest Show on Earth? If you live in the UK, you could hardly have failed to notice the promise that hosting the Olympic games would leave a fitter, leaner nation more engaged in sports. As we approach the opening ceremony in Rio for this year's Olympic games, I thought it would be interesting to look into how much participation in sports has changed in the past recent years. Sadly, there's not much that will hit the headlines.
Data on sports participation for England have been collected throughout this time period by the Active People Survey. Since the survey started, the number of adults (age 16+) who participate in sport has remained fairly stagnant, hovering around about the 35 to 36 percent level. There were modest increases around the times when London was awarded the games, and around the games themselves, but nothing sustained. The most recent data (to 2016) revealed that fifty-seven percent of adults do not play sports. It's worth noting that non-competitive activities, such as aerobics and zumba, are included in the data, but other physical activities, such as walking, gardening and Pilates are not. A more general measure of physical activity has only been included in the survey since the 2012-2013 period. This showed an increase in people classed as active (≥ 150 minutes/ week of moderate or vigorous physical activity) from 54.9 percent in the survey ending in 2013, to 57 percent in the survey ending 2015.
Source: Active People Interactive. URL: http://activepeople.sportengland.org/ accessed 01/08/2016
It's hard to tell what would have happened in the absence of the games, and whether it as a minimum prevented a decline in sports participation that could have justified the nearly £9 billion cost of the games (somewhat offset by economic benefits), but at the least, I find the Olympic games to be an entertaining diversion, and am looking forward to seeing records broken, medals won and the inclusivity of the paralympics in the coming month.
Fitness and Pilates instructor with a passion for science.