Analysing Impacts Of London 2012 Olympics On Physical Activity

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The 2012 Olympics should be promoted as part of a series of "festival events" in order to involve as many people as possible and to leave a lasting legacy, a team of experts from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent have concluded.

The team analysed the potential impact of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on physical activity, sports participation and health as part of a programme of research commissioned by the Department of Health.

Leading authorities in sport and physical activity carried out a worldwide systematic review of research evidence. Their findings are expected to significantly impact on the implementation of the Government's 2012 Legacy Action Plan which sets out plans to achieve post-Olympic targets in a range of areas.

Key findings include:

1. The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has the potential to play a key role in increasing participation and improving health but only as part of wider initiatives and strategies,

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2. For current or lapsed sports participants, the Government's Legacy Action Plans needs to capitalise on the 'demonstration effect' (athletes acting as role models to inspire increased sport participation) and boost the local range and availability of new sports activities, particularly the less traditional ones,

3. For the sedentary and least active, informal physical activity participation in the community can be encouraged by capitalising on 'festival events' ie events that do not necessarily involve participation In Olympic and Paralympic sports.

4. Use should be made of the national platform of celebration by promoting locally owned and culturally relevant 2012 'festival effects'. This will develop and maintain the public's positive feeling towards hosting the 2012 Games and tap into the 'once in a lifetime' feel.

5. Legacy efforts must be robustly evaluated and set a benchmark for the evaluation of future Olympic and Paralympic events.

Professor Mike Weed, who headed up the review on behalf of the University's Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR), said: "The findings of this report will help to ensure that initiatives designed to capitalise on the physical activity, sport and health benefits of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are informed by the best available evidence from around the world. The findings show that initiatives need carefully planning and should be tailored for different target groups.

"The Olympic and Paralympic Games do not inspire everyone in the same way - in fact, what inspires some may have the opposite effect on others. In particular, evidence suggests that elite sport rarely motivates physical activity take-up among non-participants and the least active. For these groups, the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games should be promoted as a four year festival of community participation events rather than an elite sport competition."

Dr Rashmi Shukla, The Regional Director for Public Health and Medical Director for the West Midlands "This review clearly sets out the best available international evidence for how we can deliver a true and lasting health and physical activity legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We hope that the report will stimulate discussion, aid decision making, generate ideas and positively challenge partnerships at all levels to maximise the opportunities before us to capitalise on London hosting the 2012 Games."

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