Sport as a tool for a better everyday life or … big business
March 2, 2020
These are special experiences that bring memories to life – both inside and outside the world of sports. One of my special experience is the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with London as a fantastic host city. It is no coincidence that London has hosted the world’s biggest sporting event for three times. For centuries, London has been the political, economic and cultural metropolis of the Commonwealth of Nations, which today consists of 52 nations spread across all five continents. Last week I was back in London, partly – together with the Idan Forum – to visit various charities and projects working to realize the Greater London Authority and London Sports’ vision of becoming the world’s most physically most active capital. And partly to restore “Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park” in East London. The park, located in Stratford, was once one of London’s most desolate and polluted industrial areas, but today the area has evolved into one of London’s most attractive with lots of new homes, tech companies, schools and educational institutions, parks, playgrounds, shopping center, cultural institutions and sports and music event facilities for the benefit of children, young people, adults and the elderly from all over London.
There are many things that have remained unchanged since the Olympics and Paralympics almost eight years ago: The fish soup at “Borough Market”, one of London’s largest and oldest food markets, the musical “Les Misérables”, which is performed daily at “Queens Theater” since 1985 and the crowd in “The Tube” – London’s subway system, which serves 1.3 billion passengers a year. But there have also been significant changes: The number of cyclists is double, the season ticket prices for Premier League clubs Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and West Ham have exploded and the British resigned – regrettably – a few weeks ago formally by the EU after almost five decades membership.
England – and perhaps more precisely United Kingdom – can rightly be called the country of origin of sport, as sports such as football, cricket, rugby, tennis, badminton and table tennis were invented and widespread throughout the world by the British back in the latter half of the 18’th century. At that time, the UK was – and continues to be – a very fragmented society with large income and wealth disparities in the population, both nationally and locally. One of the biggest challenges for British sport today is precisely the growing distance between professional sport and “Sport for All”. Inequality is also a growing and visible problem between individual sports – not least in London, where the vast majority of sports activities for children and young people are organized outside the traditional clubs and federations. The increasing distance between sport as a measure of economic profit or sport as a means of social inclusion, education and learning for children and young people is also reflected in the state financial support for sport. UK Sport is responsible for allocating resources to Olympic federations and athletes, while Sport England supports both federations, schools, charities and private projects working to realize the vision of more active citizens – regardless of gender, age, education and race. State aid, both for UK Sport and Sport England, is increasing, while local, public support is extremely limited. The growing distance between sport as a goal or means is also one of the main reasons why very few children and young people under 18 – less than 20% – practice sports in organized clubs and federations. The corresponding membership figures for children and young people in the Nordic countries are more than 3 times greater, ie. over 60%.
One of the projects, which focuses on the recruitment of children and youth for sport in London, is Green House Sport (GHS). The project uses sports – including table tennis, basketball, swimming and judo – to engage and inspire children and youth from socially stressed areas. From a holistic perspective, well-trained and full-time GHS coaches work with local schools to teach the children and young people skills that they can apply both in and out of sports. The overall aim is to improve the lives and conditions of children and young people. Primarily funded by private foundations, Green House Sport encompasses more than 8,000 children and young people in London who have neither the financial advice nor the social support of their parents to join a traditional sports club.
Another project is Chance to Shine (CTS), which uses cricket as a means for children and young people to learn and develop, both physically, mentally and socially. In this way, cricket helps to create a better everyday life for the children and young people, who very often have a different ethnic background than the British. The Cricket Foundation, which has been launched independently – both organizationally and financially – by the National Cricket Association, offers cricket as an activity for more than ½ million. children and young people at nearly 5,000 schools in Wales and England. In addition to cricket in schools, the project also initiates cricket in green areas and parks in inner city areas. in London. Street cricket thus offers another way into the sport, with more than 85% of the children and young people in CTS not being a member of a traditional cricket club.
The lack of organized clubs, the limited finances of many families and especially low public support, both for facilities and activities, are some of the biggest challenges facing British sport – not least in big cities such as London. I was therefore pleased to see Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which I visited for the first time back in 2006 – shortly after London was hosted by the Olympics and Paralympics 2012. Today, several of the Olympic facilities are used for pleasure and benefit the local children and young people, including Lee Valley VeloPark, which features tracks for mountain biking and BMX as well as a very nice indoor track. All age groups have access to the track for a fee, and Lee Valley Regional Park offers great opportunities for outdoor activities such as rowing, kayaking, soccer, rugby, hockey and tennis.
London Stadium, which is the largest sports facility in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is today home to the Premier League club West Ham United, which since its inception in 1895 has been associated with the east of London. The club is also known to some of the most faithful and proud fans in the world. However, many of these have not been content to leave the legendary “Upton Park” stadium in favor of the Olympic Stadium with seating for 60,000 spectators. However, the frustration over the new stadium did not appear on Saturday afternoon, with “The Hammers” winning 3-1 over Southampton, thus maintaining the belief of yet another Premier League season. Professional clubs such as West Ham United are now multinational corporations with annual turnovers. The gap between “Chance to Shine” and West Ham United is unbelievably great, and the inequality in the world of sports, both in and outside England, is unfortunately only getting bigger and bigger.
You can find more information at the following website:
Idan Forum – https://www.idan.dk/idan-forum/
London Sport – https://londonsport.org/
Green House Sport – https://www.greenhousesports.org/
Chance to Shine – https://www.chancetoshine.org/
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – https://www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/
Lee ValleyVeloPark – https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/london2012/velo-park/
West Ham United – https://www.whufc.com/