Cameron’s Olympic fail: Over 1 in 3 no longer back the games as the numbers of young taking part in sport fall

by Atul Hatwal

With 100 days to go until the Olympics, new figures uncovered by Labour Uncut reveal how public support for the games is slipping while participation in sport amongst 16-24 year olds is falling.

In 2011, the numbers who were either opposed or indifferent to the games rose from 33% to 36% compared to 2010/11, while the numbers backing the Olympics dropped from 66% to 63%.

The fall in public support is the first to be registered since 2008/9 and means that more than a third of the country no longer backs the games.

Any drop in public support will worry the government which has committed hundreds of millions of pounds in officials’ time and marketing resources to promoting the games to the public.

Public support  was critical to London winning the games when it topped 70% and the government will be vulnerable to charges that their stewardship of the Olympics since 2010 has seen support steadily leach away.

Among those who back the games, one of the main reasons given is the anticipated benefit for the country’s health. 26% of those who are strongly supportive of the games cite either the positive impact on promoting fitness or the benefit of the games for children as the reason for their backing.

However, the latest survey figures also reveal that participation in sport among 16-24 year olds has fallen by 4% since 2009/10. The period of decline coincides almost exactly with the arrival of David Cameron’s government in May 2010.

The political stakes for the government could not be higher. Lord Coe recently said that the Olympics would “enthuse a new generation” while the prime minister stated, “the Olympics will revitalise local sport in Britain for generations to come.”

But at the start of their term in office, the Tory-led government cut £165 million of ring-fenced funding for schools and earlier this year they abandoned a target of getting one million more people in to sport.

The latest survey figures indicate that the government’s cuts agenda is starting to take its toll on public engagement with the Olympics and the first signs of panic are evident in Whitehall: at the end of last year, David Cameron summarily doubled the budget for the opening ceremony from £40m to £81m with sources in LOCOG, the London 2012 Organising Committee, suggesting that more funding increases are likely as the games draw nearer.

How David Cameron will tackle falling public support and extra Olympic funding requests while maintaining his budget forecasts remains unclear, but his political judgement and ability to manage major projects, are already, once again, under question .

Atul Hatwal is associate editor at Uncut

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13 Responses to “Cameron’s Olympic fail: Over 1 in 3 no longer back the games as the numbers of young taking part in sport fall”

  1. Jon says:

    Oh come off it! “Uncovered by Labour Uncut” = information freely available on the DCMS website.

    Frankly, I’m amazed that support for the Olympics remains so high.

  2. Henrik says:

    Of course it may also be the case that folk are now, belatedly, coming to realise what a colossal waste of time, space and money the whole IOC boondoggle is and are perhaps getting slightly thoughtful at just how disruptive this will be for London and the country as a whole.

    The Olympics, yet another Labour time bomb.

  3. Nick says:

    It will cost 2.4 billion.

    How about some prosecutions for fraud for those who said that, and have profited as a result.

    This is how the fraud works.

    1. Bid low.
    2. Win the bid
    3. Now you have a very well paid job for 8 years
    4. Set up a company to provide entertainment packages. Being an insider, you make sure you get large ticket allocations. You make a huge profit as a result
    5. Now, you start upping the budget.
    6. When the government complains, its basic blackmail. Are you going to pull the plug PM and tell the Olympic committee that we can’t deliver? Are you going to take a 2.4 billion loss? Give us more money.

    End result 11 billion down the drain as a result of politicians lies.

    The young have worked out.

    1. They are paying and will be for their entire lives for the mistakes of people like you.

  4. BenM says:

    Like a lot of huge events, there will be a dip in enthusiasm prior to the event starting (with loads of irrelevant copy about the “cost” of the Games), a surge in support during it – especially if team GB do well – then the usual cynicism post event.

    But let’s be clear what an achievement it is to host the Olympics. Like most major events, you couldn’t imagine them being won under an investment strangling Tory government.

    It usually takes a Labour government to raise the UKs profile enough to win these things.

    Let’s celebrate that and start investing properly at grassroots level to encourage more participation in sport.

  5. Anon E Mouse says:


    “it usually takes a Labour government to raise…blah blah”

    So it wasn’t won by accident then? The Greek delegate didn’t press the wrong button?

    I know Labour activists like to rewrite history and you BenM are especially good at seeing the world through your rose tinted glasses but that remark is a new low even given your previous posts to left wing blogs…

  6. swatantra says:

    The Olympics are the best thing that has happened to Britain for a long while, so lets not knock them. After its all over, the whingers are going to have to concede defeat. But the costs should be shared nationally nd not fall primarily on London.
    More young peope are going to get into Sport inspired by GB’s successful medal tally.

  7. Hmm. Trying to make something out of nothing here, I think, Mr H. These seem to be quite small movements in survey data which I’m not entirely sure tell us anything very useful anyway. The reported 4% fall in participation among 16-24 year-olds ‘coinciding’ with Cameron’s period in office is most likely just that – a coincidence. Increasing participation in sports is only likely to happen over the medium to long term. Changes to policy and funding are unlikely to have had an impact over a timescale of <2 years. It's not clear when you refer to £165m of ringfenced funding, whether that was for schools in general, or for school sport – I'd suggest that makes a difference to the argument. I'd also seriously question how that will have had any impact on participation among people currently in the 16-24 age group, most of whom will have left school before the last general election, surely?
    All in all, I think it's a bit much to blame David Cameron personally for any of this. As for his ability to manage major projects, I'd suggest that isn't really the PM's job anyway. In the case of the Olympics, No. 10 will rightly take a strong interest but the delivery is what we have LOCOG for. If there are project management issues, they are for Seb Coe and Paul Deighton.

  8. oliver says:

    Serious question: who actually wanted the games in the first place? I live in the North of England and, whether in real life or through social networking &c., I honestly don’t know anyone that either wanted it or has any real interest in it. I should point out that my friends aren’t limited to the North and everyone I’ve talked to about it felt the same way, even Londoners. Maybe particularly Londoners. Everyone else seems to think of it as a London-only issue, like much of what happens in Britain. Those who’ve had said they’d watch it on television have all pointed out that they’d have been able to do so if France – or anyone else – had ‘won’ the bid. So, for them, it happening in London made absolutely no difference at all other than it was is in the same time zone and would mean less late nights/early mornings.

    I’ve heard exactly the same things every time: how much it will actually cost as opposed to ‘guestimates’, how only a few will benefit, how it’s a political rather than a sporting issue and the idea it will generate revenue is a bit of a scam considering where monies raised will go.

    I’m under the impression that money generated by the Olympics is done in the run-up and during the event itself. If that’s the case, we don’t appear to have anything to show for it as a country as, thanks to this government, we’re in worst shit than we were a few years ago.

    I’m with Nick on this, it’s a scam on a massive scale and people really should be doing time for this kind of thing.

  9. madasafish says:

    Let’s see : the Olympics.

    Mass participation sport?
    Ordinary people taking part? Nope.

    Just as professional as football or rugby .. and we don’t spend £billions on their World Cups.

    Waste of time and money: and I was and still am a sport person.

    Will not watch it…

  10. BenM says:

    “Ordinary people taking part? Nope.”

    Eh? You say you’re into sport and complain that ordinary people aren’t taking part in the Olympics?

    You do know what the Olympics are about don’t you?

    It’s about human beings competing at the limits of what the human body can do.

    Besides, if it is true courage and inspiration you are looking for, the paralympics follow on a couple of weeks later. And Britain is first class in the world of paralympic sport.

    As for the criticism that none of the sports are mass participation – given blanket coverage of and hype surrounding a mediocre domestic football league (and I’m a footballer) I’d say that’s a blessed relief.

    Footnote: I see poor old AnonEMouse is reduced to throwing around conspiracy theories.

    Britain can’t win world events under Tory governments. Simple as that.

  11. swatantra says:

    I agree, the Olympics should be about ordinary people taking part, not about stretching the bound of endurance etc. Surely we have the World Championships for that, where you expect to pay money to see professionals taking part., or in Tennis or Football or F1.
    Lets go back to the Olympic ideal of amateurism, a Games for the People, not the same old professionals on another outing.

  12. madasafish says:

    Ben M said:
    “As for the criticism that none of the sports are mass participation – given blanket coverage of and hype surrounding a mediocre domestic football league (and I’m a footballer) I’d say that’s a blessed relief.”

    All the more reason for me not to watch them. Is watching cycling interesting? Or athletics? Answer: it is if you are interested in them. Otherwise they make Formula One look exciting.. At least F1 only lasts a couple of hours at a time.

    The Romans gave their mob “bread and circuses” to keep them quiet. We give them benefits and the Olympics.. Not a lot has changed in 2,000 years..

    All this talk of Olympics encouraging mass participation is risible.. To be a top athlete you need to be born with the right genes for a start.. 1 in 1,000 might have them.

  13. uglyfatbloke says:

    What’s the isue here? Most people dpn’t really like games..full stop. We talk about football as though it were a national obsession, but the overwhelming majority never (and i do mean ‘never’) watch a football game on the telly, let alone go to a stadium. Indirectly – through a myriad of tax dodges that governemtns of all stripes help to encourage – the football businesses that pay irritating young men and pomposuy old men miliions of pounds a year, are actually subsidised by everybody else.
    What about he Olympics? If the (very questionable) ratings system indicates that 20,000,000 people watch the opening or closing cermonies that’ll be described as a fantastic result, conveniently forgetting that the other 45,000,000 people (two out of three) did not watch it. And why should it be in London, the most heavily subsidised part of the UK? The Olympics are costing the whole country billions, but there’s no benefit to Manchester or Plymouth or Newcastle.

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