STATE OF THE NATION: Failure to invest in school sports could prove costly to Olympic hopes

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The British Olympic movement has never been in better health.

London 2012 was the most hyped sporting occasion in the nation’s history, yet both the Olympic and Paralympic Games not only lived up to such lofty expectations, they exceeded them, with the nation uniting for an unforgettable summer of sport.

The home teams at both Games inspired the country with their remarkable achievements. Records tumbled and medals were claimed at an astonishing rate.

The ‘Games Makers’ greeted us with warm smiles and open arms and all the troubles around us were briefly forgotten. They were heady days indeed, the likes of which we may never see again.

But to keep moving forward the British Olympic Association, the individual sporting bodies and the athletes themselves cannot dwell too long on the success of London 2012.

Encouragingly, those in charge of the purse strings are well aware of the pitfalls that lay ahead if laurels are rested upon.

Within hours of the final medals being won at the London Olympics, the government promised to match the National Lottery’s financial commitment to sport for the next four-year cycle. That funding was allocated earlier this month, with those sports where Britain did well at London given more money to keep producing the same results.

With more money, though, comes greater responsibility to keep producing results.

In announcing what sports received what, UK Sport also turned up the heat by setting a target of more medals at both the Rio Olympics and Paralympics; something that has never been achieved before by the last host nation.

It shows great ambition by UK Sport, for which they should be commended. Hopefully, the bar has not been raised so high that it cannot be overcome.

The funding has already left some sports with a bitter taste in the mouth after what should have been a breakthrough year.

The British volleyball, handball and basketball squads, for instance, have never known it as good as they did at London. But packed venues and a surge in participation have been tempered greatly by the fact that their failure to progress on the court means they have little funding and little hope of ever getting back there in the future.

With elite level taken care of, school sport has to be looked at next. We may be blessed by a talented generation, living and training comfortably thanks to central funding, but what of the stars of the future?

Since the axing of funding for school sports initiatives, there has been no clear policy for an area that requires greater attention.

If the next generation continue to be overlooked then as strong as the Olympic spirit is right now in this country, it will never get any better.

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