Sport And Fitness - Running In Circles

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20160314
2016031420160321 (R4)As the Olympics approach, Peter White considers the confusion over sport and fitness.
2016031420160406 (R4)As the Olympics approach, Peter White considers the confusion over sport and fitness.
2016032120160406 (R4)"The Olympic legacy has failed to translate into greater sporting opportunities for our children and in this programme Peter White hears from them and their counterparts in the United States. In Britain there is still a mismatch between funding for elite sports and the fitness and activity that health experts say youngsters need. With audio diaries tracking the weekly activity of pupils, Peter unpicks what was promised in the run up to the Olympics and what has actually transpired: asking what more, if anything, could be done?

Billboards across the country tell us: ""This girl can"", to encourage younger women to participate in sport. But why should this succeed when, according to the former Minister for the Olympics, Tessa Jowell, the billions spent on the 2012 Games failed to deliver a legacy of sporting engagement?

She believes that we squandered a once in a lifetime opportunity. But perhaps the writing was already on the wall even before the cheers for Farah, Ennis, Rutherford and co had died on our lips. A Freedom of Information request revealed in September 2012 that one-third of Councils in the UK said they had recently cut grass-roots sports facilities, or raised charges for them: playing-fields, parks and sports centres. Meanwhile, according to numerous head teachers, sport hardly gets a look-in when the Ofsted inspector comes calling.

Although the chief Medical Officer of Health has said he wants children to be taking five or six hours of exercise each week, PE lessons are struggling to reach two hours; there's also evidence that the numbers of disadvantaged children taking part in sport is falling. And yet every week there are headlines about the crisis in childhood obesity.

As Rio approaches Peter asks why we should believe that an Olympic gold medallist will encourage a thirteen-year-old boy to set aside his play station on a wet December evening and go for a run? Some, such as former Olympic coach Tom McNab, claim that we are mired in a very fundamental confusion about elite sport and elite sporting competition, both of which actually have little to do with health-related fitness: to assume that one will influence the other is misguided.

He feels that Government stats which group together dedicated club athletes with people who like a run round the block now and again are just misleading. Local authorities and schools could do much more to encourage health and fitness, but this has nothing to do with elite sport, and most national sporting bodies are aimed at national competitors, not people who want to lose a bit of weight or improve their general health.

So can this ever be untangled? If we're hoping to tackle our predicted obesity epidemic through exercise, then some solutions are absolutely necessary. This programme seeks answers through recordings with sports scientists, administrators, doctors, politicians, and children; and by exploring whether other countries, like the United States, are doing better at navigating the current gaps in provision and performance.

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