By Tom Degun in London

June 25 - A multi-million pound programme of free sporting activities across London this summer to increase participation ahead of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics was launched here today by the capital's Mayor Boris Johnson (pictured). 

The programme includes a £340,000 ($508,000) investment in around 120 projects across London over this summer and during next year as part of Playsport London: FreeSport.

Throughout July, August and September, people across the capital will have the opportunity to try out a variety of different sports and other physical pursuits in a scheme that also involves Sport England.

These include some of the countries most popular sports such as tennis, football, cricket, rugby and swimming.

However, there is also the chance for Londoners to take up less commonly played sports in UK including trampolining, basketball, martial arts, volleyball, boxing and dance while there are other activities specifically aimed at young families, the disabled and older citizens.

Johnson said: "With the drama of the World Cup unfolding on our TV screens and the excitement of another fabulous Wimbledon tournament, we are seeing some of the greatest sportspeople in the world in action at the moment.

"As we build up to the 2012 Games, we want to inspire and encourage more Londoners to get active and have a go for themselves, particularly the youngsters who could be this country’s sporting stars of the future.

"Whatever your age, ability or proclivity, there’s a sport or activity to suit, so give it a go."

The Mayor’s Commissioner for Sport Kate Hoey added: "A key imperative for us is to ensure a legacy from the 2012 Games that sees healthier, more active Londoners.

"We will continue to build on the solid work we are already implementing to provide opportunities for participation to people of all ages and enhance the provision of grass-roots sport."

The funding for the programme comes on top of £7 million ($10.5 million) that has been made available for organisations wanting to improve their facilities and £4 million for sporting initiatives aimed at promoting better health, improving social cohesion and tackling crime.

A further £3 million ($4.5 million) has been set aside to develop skills that will enable people to train and coach youngsters.

Other funding is already being invested to improve access in parts of the capital that may lack facilities such as the "Make A Splash" programme which has seen mobile pools installed in Camden and Greenwich with new locations set to be announced.

The Mayor is also supporting sporting events that encourage competition amongst young Londoners with over £80,000 ($120,000) invested in this year’s Panathlon Challenge, a pan-London Paralympic style tournament involving around 1,000 disabled youngsters.

Other events include the London United Community Cup and FC Unity Cup, which are linked to the England bid to host the World Cup in 2018, and the Mayor will officially launch next week’s London Youth Games at Crystal Palace.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Main picture:  James O. Jenkins

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