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Sport for life

Parts of our sporting life are functioning at the highest level, but there’s more we can do across the board if we truly want to inspire – and enable –people to make sport and exercise part of their life for all of their life

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management Oct 2016 issue 127
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

This issue of Sports Management is packed full of inspiration – stories of how sport has touched people’s lives and made a difference, from children with autism to Olympic athletes and the elderly.

After Team GB’s incredible achievements at Rio 2016, we decided to create a souvenir edition of Sports Management to record Team GB’s results and how the athletes are being supported. We’ve broken it down, sport by sport, to show the impact funding has had. You can find this special section starting on page 44.

It’s easy to be squeamish about putting a monetary value on medals, but for too long the ambitions of our sportspeople were overlooked by governing bodies which built empires for their senior people at the expense of talent pathways and support for athletes. The system we have now is far more honest.

In the bad old days, athletes were left to fend for themselves with, at best, their families making huge sacrifices to fund their dreams and at worst, simply not being able to compete. The fact that it’s now possible for so many to realise their potential is thrilling indeed.

But while Olympic medals matter, the bigger picture is the huge inspiration these wins give young people.

We heard in Rio, for example, how cyclist Laura Trott had been motivated to train and compete when – as a young girl – she met Bradley Wiggins and tried on his Olympic medal. Inspiration and access to facilities does actually, really, genuinely change lives and can set people on a better path and this is important.

But just as our Olympians can inspire the next generation to take part and sometimes even to meet or exceed their hero’s achievements, so we must remember the other end of life and on page 66 we report on the Sports Games for the Elderly, an event held under the auspices of the Olympic Committee of Andorra with funding from Olympic Solidarity.

The Games hosted 300 people aged 60 to 90 to take part in 12 activities and it was a glorious success.

Older people are highly discriminated against in sport and exercise – it’s one of the greatest weaknesses of our society that we don’t take more effective steps to help people continue to be active into old age, with all the amazing health benefits that brings.

These range from the physical, such as better balance and bone and muscle mass, to the psychological – confidence and self-belief – to the social – the friendship and purpose which can be lacking from older lives.

So let’s look at this as a lifelong continuum and if it can include sporting achievements along the way, all the better, but sport for life should be our mantra.

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