David Pye: We’ll have more heroes to cheer if we can keep kids off the couches

FIGURES released yesterday show participation in sport is up in the UK by 1.5million since London won the bid to host last year’s Olympics.

According to Sport England, 15.5million took part in some sport at least once a week in the past year – figures that will please Lord Seb Coe and his 2012 organising committee who based their whole bid on the legacy of the Games, although tennis participation being down is a concern.

You would expect an instant reaction after last year’s event with the feel-good factor tempting many into new sports, but the fact many are still involved a year on will provide encouragement for those in charge.

Not only is it about fitness and health; we also need to get kids playing regular sport because they are the future Olympians. They are the next Jason Kenny or Mo Farah.

Since the surge of computer games in the 1990s, fewer and fewer youngsters have been tempted to take up sport in their spare time.

Without wanting to sound like a grumpy old man before my time recalling halcyon days that were far from perfect, we did get out of the house more, playing football until the street lamps lit up and sometimes beyond.

It was a case of jumpers for goalposts and all that with most parks and avenues when I was growing up full of kids playing out in the fresh air.

Times have changed, but it would be wrong to just lay the blame on technological advances.

Lifestyles have changed as well; we are all a sky+ nation living life at x30 speed with parents left with little time to take youngsters to the local athletics club or swimming pool.

That’s if those venues have not been closed down – there may be better facilities around now but they are on a much smaller scale and few and far between.

So the fact the Olympics has rejuvenated that interest and focus on sport has to be a good thing.

Youngsters need idols to aspire to and that is exactly what last year gave them. Whereas once school sports stars only ever wanted to be footballers, now they want to be cyclists, long-distance runners and heptathletes as well.

If we can reap the rewards then it is even better for generations to come.

If nothing else, it means the revamped BBC Sports Personality of the Year extravaganza may have a future in its current format as more and more contenders come to the fore.

The main benefit will be this country’s proud sporting heritage.

We have had many great Britons throughout sporting history. If we can keep kids off the couch and in sports halls and clubs, that will continue for many years.

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