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Children's lottery funding raided to fund 2012 Olympics

Children's sport is to lose out as clubs across the UK are denied £340 million of lottery grants to divert funds to the Olympics. The money, normally destined for thousands of small organisations, will instead be used to pay for 2012 projects, including a velodrome and an aquatic centre with two swimming pools and a diving pool.

The Government has set a target of a one per cent increase every year until 2020 in the number of people engaging in sport and put the "participation legacy" at the heart of the Olympic bid. Britain has one of Europe's lowest figures for participation in sport, particularly among young people, with 70 per cent of girls and almost as many boys dropping out altogether once they leave school. In France, the figure is just 30 per cent.

Sport England and its counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland normally distribute the funding, in the form of grants, to a wide range of grassroots clubs who make successful applications for money to build new facilities or improve existing ones. But the Government has ordered the sports bodies to give a total of £340 million to Olympic projects. Sport England will give most – £285 million, the equivalent of nearly two years of its annual £150 million budget – with a further £55 million diverted from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The organisations' role is to "create opportunities for people to start in sport, stay in sport and succeed in sport" and they are responsible for delivering the Government's sporting objectives.

But the Central Council of Physical Recreation, which represents 270 governing bodies of sports organisations, from the Football Association to the Girl Guides, said that diverting funds to the Olympics would have "disastrous consequences" for the grassroots clubs – and for the nation's health at a time when the Government is trying to cut obesity. Tim Lamb, the council's chief executive, said: "The Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encourage people to do more sport and exercise and improve the nation's health, but the cuts mean we will miss that opportunity and we are in danger of producing another generation of couch potatoes. The outlook is bleak."

From: Children's sport comes last in race for Olympic success, David Harrison, Sunday Telegraph, 05/11/2006

More at: Sports Fund Raiders

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