On Friday I had the honour of being part of a panel discussing the impact of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on communities across Britain.
Before I give a short overview of the conversation, I want to ask you a few questions…
What are your thoughts on the socio-cultural impact of the Olympic Games?
How did the Games impact you?
Has it changed your life in any way, shape or form?
Were you inspired to get active, pursue your dreams, and believe in the impossible?
Pause for thought.
The questions weren’t solely about inspiration, but equally about the tangible, practical impact – or lack of – that the Games left on the British population. Specifically, the focus seemed to be on those who were potentially left behind (for socio-cultural, economic reasons) following the rush of enthusiasm and heightened engagement in sport and fitness on the back of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio.
Two months on, has the country done enough to ensure children across the country from all walks of life are being given equal chance to benefit from the Games?
Are our children being afforded equal access to the sport(s) of their choice?
For example, if a young child watched dressage or tennis at the Games and was, from that point on, inspired to participate in that particular discipline, would they have the means to do so – financially, environmentally, geographically, etc.? Would that child have access to positive, proactive support-systems around them to support their growth and development towards the fulfilment of their absolute potential?
Rt. Hon John Bercow quoted a statistic that shocked me: around 97% of Britain’s children attend state schools. How many of these schools provide the children access to sports like horse-riding, tennis, lacrosse, skiing, etc.? And how many of these children’s parents have the financial capacity to afford club membership or private tuition in sports such as these. In fact, with the ever-rising cost of club membership across many sports in Britain, even the ‘cheaper’ sports are becoming out of reach for young people.
This was just one issue of many discussed.
Overall, it was a wonderful (slightly unnerving, yet exhilarating) few hours spent debating this topic and more, and I eagerly await the publication of this report and the subsequent policies that would support an improved Britain. Because it is amazing what happens when young people are invited to join the conversation; when their voices are heard, incredible change can happen.
I am incredibly thankful to the Youth Charter for the invitation, to Geoff Thompson et al. for putting it all together, to the Rt. Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons for chairing the debate, to the expert panel for their contributions, to the UTC at Media City for hosting, and most importantly to the young people involved for their incredibly thought-provoking questions.
To watch the debate visit: https://youtu.be/MSmouIr0AcM?t=46m8s
Or watch here: