July 22 - Olympic gold medallist Ian Taylor, chief executive of SkillsActive, has welcomed recent figures that show sports participation has been boosted by London 2012 but warned more needs to be done to continue the legacy.
A recent report from Sport England indicated that 1.4 million more adults play sport as of April 2013 compared to 13.9 million in 2005-2006 when London was announced as the host city for the 2012 Games.
It showed that 16.9 per cent of adults now take part in at least three sport sessions a week, which is up from 15.5 per cent.
The report also showed that more people from ethnic minorities are playing sport and there has been an increase in the numbers of disabled people taking part in sport with 18.2 per cent participating in regular sporting activities compared to 15.1 per cent in 2005-2006.
"We're delighted the report finds that London 2012 not only boosted the economy, but also has continued to inspire more people to participate in sports," said Taylor, whose organisation oversees the development of skills and standards in active leisure, learning and well-being.
"At SkillsActive, what we have seen is London 2012 acting as a catalyst to bring forward concepts and opinions about sport, physical activity and fitness as a career choice.
"We are working with employers, practitioners and stakeholders to ensure that this industry is comprised of qualified and professional staff.
"That, for us, has been the biggest impact of London 2012."
However, the report found that just over 52 per cent of adults still play no sport at all and that there is still a significant gap between male and female participation with 40.1 per cent of men currently playing sport at least once a week compared to 30.5 per cent of women.
And, despite drives to get more young people active in sport from as early an age as possible in the build up to and after London 2012, a number of recent studies have pointed to a growing obesity problem among young children.
A report by the National Child Measurement Programme, in December last year indicated that one in three ten and 11-year-olds in the final year of primary school are overweight or obese and that 20 per cent of reception children - four to five-year-olds - are overweight or obese.
Despite the Government's announcement of a £150 million ($230 million/€174 million) funding package for primary school sport in March, the scrapping of School Sport Partnerships (SSPs) and the removal of the mandatory two hours per week physical education at school policy has led to accusations that the promised Olympic legacy is being jeopardised.
Taylor, the goalkeeper when Britain's hockey team won the Olympic gold medal at Seoul 1988, believes that more needs to be done to ensure that those involved in the delivery of sport to young people including PE teachers, coaches and sport and leisure staff, need to be properly trained and have the appropriate qualifications to ensure more engagement at a younger age.
"We know children and young people were inspired by the examples of Team GB's athletes at the 2012 Olympics," he said.
"Better access to sport and physical activity is the start, but to engage this group of people, a quality experience is needed, and this can only be delivered by appropriately qualified coaches, providers and staff.
"Ensuring the workforce in this sector is sufficiently qualified and capable of performing to high expectations will fully engage and reconnect these people and ensure they commit to a fit and healthy lifestyle.
"Skilled professionals can recognise a child's enthusiasm for sports and physical activities, and help them channel that passion into a legacy of self-belief and self-confidence for a lifetime.
"Inspiring not only future Olympic sporting champions, but an active, healthy population will take concerted, ongoing investment and people development in the sports and physical activity sector.
"Only by doing so can we ensure the Olympics legacy continues to be realised."
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