AS THE final preparations are made for the ‘greatest show on earth’, it has certainly fired the imagination of Welsh politicians and public as to whether the Olympic Games will be embraced by the nation.
Whether you see the Olympics as an event that includes Wales or as essentially London-based, there has been an emphatic crowd pleasing response throughout Wales.
May’s tour saw the torch taken to the summit of Snowdon, carried on the back of a Welsh cob horse and transported along an aqueduct on a hand-drawn boat, not forgetting receiving an overwhelming response along Beaufort Street, Brynmawr.
With more than £8m of lottery money that would have gone to grassroots sport having been diverted to help fund the Olympics, many in the sector argue it was right Wales contributed. But what lasting legacy will this leave Wales?
Sports Wales, the body, which advises the Welsh government and is responsible for distributing lottery grant funding to sport in Wales, said it wasn’t just the ‘technical strength of the Olympic bid that led to our hosting of the Games, but the commitment to maximise the power of the Games to inspire the youth of the world to re-engage with sport.’
Sport is not only a hugely important part of Welsh life – it also plays a crucial role in helping the Welsh government achieve its goals. It has a bearing on health, education and training, social cohesion and regeneration.
With help from the Welsh government, Sports Wales will still be able to invest almost £32m a year into community sport over the next three years, and hopes that the sight of British and Welsh athletes doing well at the Olympics will inspire chidren and adults to get involved.
Sport Wales National Lottery grants are available not only to improve the level of sports participation at grassroots level but also provide aspiring athletes with the support required to compete successfully on the world stage.
I’m assured it’s not about trying to turn everyone into a budding Colin Jackson or Nicole Cooke, but delivering more opportunities for more children and young people” and “sports clubs that are thriving hubs of activity”.
Welsh athletes are certainly punching above their weight, as the number of medals won by our athletes shows and our disabled athletes are doing better than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.
So while look forward to London 2012, the winners and the stories of triumph, we all need to consider how we can make the biggest difference – giving young people a chance to create a positive future for themselves.