The Inspiration Factor

Thanks to one of our most enthusiastic and committed Twitter friends (thank you, @T19ht_h34d) I had my eyes directed to this article on The Guardian’s Women’s Blog from yesterday.  For those without the time to digest, it charts the beginnings of a female boxer’s steps from complete novice – albeit clearly a physically fit novice – to hopeful amateur boxing competitor.  Taking part in her first round in a few weeks’ time, the blogger credits having been turned to the sport at least in part by Nicola Adams’ heroics in the London 2012 Olympic Games.  The tale in itself is inspiring enough, but it got me to thinking – so much has been said about the legacy of London 2012, particularly on the accessibility of sport for women, but has any sort of legacy begun to take effect?  Or is it simply too soon to chart any sort of potential impact?  And if not, how can the promised legacy best be measured?

Deloitte – a key sponsor to the London 2012 Games – makes an interesting point in its pre-Games analysis ‘What happens next?  Capitalising on London 2012’ (see the full report here, but don’t say we didn’t warn you that it’s a dry, dry read…) that measuring the impact by sporting impulse alone would be unnecessarily limiting.  While Deloitte’s focus is the business world, areas of non-sporting legacy (including facility access and new green space) will also be measured outside of participation figures, yet are fundamental elements of the post-Games impact.  Similarly, a 2009 consultant report prepared for the Department of Communities and Local Government, highlights the importance of schools, voluntary and community groups in engaging communities in a long-term increase in sports participation.  These are both long-term, strategic guidelines though and do nothing to suggest the immediate, emotionally charged impacts of the Games.  To put it more appropriately, which brought Lucy Fry, the blog author, to the ring: community group publications, or Nicola Adams’ strong right hand jabs?

The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (@WSFF_UK) prepare case studies and fact sheets on female sporting participation, and the next iteration of their Women’s Sport Participation factsheet will make for fascinating reading, when we hope to see a significant uplift on the 12.8% of women who take part in regular sport every week.  Yet even here, the results will take some time to properly assess and analyse, and even then it’s the results in five years’ time that we really want to know – can an impact today be sustained in 2013, 2014, 2015…2022?

Given the scale of the data required to obtain meaningful, long-term analysis, perhaps the best conclusions to be drawn for the time being are in the individual stories.  Yet even here, conflicting stories emerge.  On the one hand, people like Lucy Fry and our own FQ (whose ‘Back on Track’ diaries you really should be reading) are clear evidence of the inspirational legacy of the 2012 Games.  On the other, the Co-First Team Captain of Cambridge University Women’s Lacrosse tells me her team has seen no significant increase in interest from this year to last – though, admittedly, team sport at elite university level is of too high a standard to see short-term incremental interest growth, while lacrosse must contend with having no stage as high profile as the Olympics.

Heather Watson’s recent (and oh-so-welcome) victory in the Japan Open bears a similar tale of inspiration.  Again, from the Guardian, Watson notes the motivation she absorbed from her friend and chief competitor Laura Robson, whose own rise in form sparked with her Olympic Silver Medal.  This is inspiration at an elite level, yet inspiration nonetheless.  And on the back of it, the increased participation in tennis, particularly amongst girls and young women, is hugely encouraging and based at least in part in those beautiful few weeks when London welcomed Olympians and Paralympians.

What strikes me is a confused, yet broadly encouraging picture of post-Olympic sporting participation, particularly for women.  A rudimentary Google search analysis for ‘Women in Sport’ between 27/07/2011 – 17/10/2011 yields 14,800,000 results; the same search between 27/07/2012 – 17/10/2012 returns an astonishing 297,000,000 (a 1900% increase) – unscientific, but promising.

We’re interested in your thoughts, though.  Have you been inspired to take up sport on the back of London 2012?  Or have you seen an increased participation in the sport you already played?  If you’ve got a story to tell, please do get in touch with us – we’re on Twitter (@Sportistblog) and email (


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