Only half of Britain’s young people are excited about the London Olympics but staging them is making more kids want to get involved in sport

With barely 400 days to go until the Opening Ceremony, new research from the Ambition AXA Awards has shown that Britain’s young people are being inspired to take up sport by the prospect of the world’s greatest games coming to this country.

21 June 2011

Posted in Financial results

by Jennifer Chilcott (see media contact)

Despite a lacklustre welcome by young people of the actual hosting - 51 per cent say they're not ‘that bothered’ or ‘don't care at all’ about the upcoming Olympics - one in four 11 to 18-year-olds across Britain say that 2012 is making them want to participate in more sport. This rises to 37% among those living in the Capital, perhaps inspired by the visible reminders that their hometown will soon be centre stage.

When London first won the rights to stage the Olympics, bid leader Sebastian Coe said that the London Games would “show a new generation why sport matters and why, in a world of distractions, Olympic sport matters”. He also said that the bid was being submitted “on behalf of the youth of today…and the athletes of tomorrow”.

The survey of 2,000 youngsters, which was carried out in support of the Ambition AXA Awards earlier this month, reveals that it is perhaps the idea of participation, not observation, that's the real winner amongst young Brits.

Asked how excited they were about the Olympics next year, 36 per cent of youngsters replied they were ‘not really bothered’ and a further 15 per cent said they ‘didn't care at all’. Almost half (49 per cent) are excited about the games but of those, only 12 per cent - less than one in eight youngsters - described themselves as ‘very excited’ - even though Olympic organisers have made huge efforts to enthuse youngsters across the country.

While the results raise concerns about attitudes towards the Games themselves, it reveals a heartening picture of their effect. This is even more apparent amongst younger children, with a third (33 per cent) of 11-13 year olds saying it will make them do more sports; this drops to 21 per cent of 14-16 year olds and 20 per cent of 17-18 year olds.

Surprisingly, London kids are only the third most excited. 55 per cent of Londoners say they are very or a little excited compared with 59 per cent in Yorkshire and Humberside and 57 per cent in the West Midlands, neither of which are staging any Olympic events.

It is this ambition to get involved in sport that shows how the Olympics could still be a catalyst for extraordinary success. The survey showed that there is plenty of interest among young people in trying out new sports - with one runaway winner.

Asked to pick out Olympic sports that they'd like to try, but which they don't currently participate in, the most popular choice was archery. It was named by 27 per cent of young people across the country, putting it way ahead of swimming in second place. After that, children would like to try out athletics, badminton, football, basketball and shooting.

Amy Williams, who won gold at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and is one of the Ambition AXA Awards judges, said, “The Olympic Games plays a crucial role in introducing a new generation to sport. It's not only the buzz around hosting such a world event that can inspire people, but seeing the range that's out there. They can watch someone perform brilliantly at a sport they'd perhaps never come across before, and feel inspired to give it a go - you never know what can come from it.

“I was a track athlete, but I was open-minded about trying out a new sport - and that turned out to be the best decision of my sporting career. There was a time when I'd never even heard of the skeleton bobsleigh, and now I'm proud to be the Olympic Champion Wouldn't it be great to think that these Games could inspire someone to try out a sport such as archery for the first time, and for that youngster to then blossom into an Olympic Champion.”

It's just this sort of desire to try a new sport and become the athletes of tomorrow that led to the creation of the AXA Ambition Awards, designed to reward young talent in this country and inspire our youngsters to fulfil their ambitions.

The study into ambition in young people was commissioned to support AXA's initiative the Ambition AXA Awards. The £200,000 awards scheme for 11-18 year olds was launched in April to reward extreme talent and achievement in Enterprise, Science, Community, Sport and The Arts. Five talented young people could each win a bespoke mentoring prize worth up to £40,000 (a total prize fund of £200,000). The winners will be announced on 30 November 2011, after which the judging panel will help the winners to create a development package that will help them to achieve their goals.