By Tom Degun

luol deng at london 2012June 13 - New figures from Sport England show the participation boost that followed London 2012 has been retained with an impressive 15.3 million people playing sport at least once a week.

When the figures were last published in December 2012 following the hugely successful Olympics and Paralympics, they showed that 750,000 more people were playing sport than the previous year - largely due to the Games.

Six months on, 530,000 of those 750,000 have been retained despite the coldest March in the country for 50 years.

The figures, which cover the period to mid-April, show there are now 1.4 million more men and women playing sport every week than there were in 2005 when London won the right to stage the 2012 Games.

There has been particularly good progress among young people as the number of individuals aged between 16 and 25 playing sport regularly has now reached 3.86 million - marking an increase of nearly 63,000 on the previous 12 months.

In addition, there is a participation increase for women, particularly in the sports of boxing and netball, which have helped to drive a year-on-year increase of 89,900 to further narrowing the gender gap in sport.

Nicola AdamsWomen’s participation has increased in the sport of boxing since British flyweight Nicola Adams became the first woman ever to win Olympic gold in the sport at London 2012

Although Sport England say there is still "an unacceptable gap" between the number of disabled people and non-disabled people playing sport, figures for disabled people have been rising steadily since 2005.

The latest figures show an increase of 46,600 over the past year, with Paralympic sports like equestrianism and athletics growing in popularity.

"These figures show we're holding onto the growth achieved over the past 18 months," Sport England's chairman Nick Bitel told insidethegames.

"This is a real boost given that very challenging weather conditions during this period with the coldest March on record for 50 years.

"What we can see is that there remains a strong demand for sport post-London 2012 and that we most continue to work to capitalise on that.

"We feel we have a strong strategy in place a Sport England to continue to deliver long term increases in the number of people playing sport and I think we are seeing that really beginning to work.

"Obviously there is still a long way to go, but it's particularly encouraging to see the numbers for young people are now moving in the right direction.
Nick BitelSport England chair Nick Bitel says it is encouraging to see the strong participation figures following London 2012 being retained

The figures released by Sport England have also been welcomed by Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson, who says they demonstrate positive progress almost one year on from London 2012.

"We remain absolutely committed to delivering a lasting sports participation legacy from London 2012," said Robertson.

"The long term trend shows we are on track, with 1.4 million more people playing sport regularly since we won the bid in 2005.

"I am encouraged to see good underlying trends in the number of young people, women and disabled people playing sport regularly and confident we have the right strategy in place to continue to deliver long term increases in the number of people playing sport."

But despite a strong retention from following London 2012, Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford says a drop of 200,000 deserves criticism.

"These disappointing figures show the Government is failing to deliver the Olympic legacy," he said.

"There should have been a significant increase in participation following the Olympics.

"It is not acceptable to explain away these figures by saying we have had a bad winter.

"The Government has failed to plan ahead and is playing catch-up to get more people participating in physical activity.

"They are showing a complete lack of planning and any coherent strategy to deliver a legacy."

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December 2012: London 2012 helps boost sport participation figures across England