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Newham reaps Olympic gains

I write in response to Mick Dennis's argument that the London Olympics will not help school sport. In Newham, one of the host Olympic boroughs, we have used the games to raise the profile of sport and healthy living and are already seeing the positive effects.

* We were the first London borough to introduce free swimming for young people during the school holidays, which provided 58,000 swims in 2004;

* Some 64,000 young people took part in 26 sports as part of our Olympic Summer of Sport programme;

* There were 16,000 attendances at our Estate Based Sports scheme, which offers sports free of charge in local communities;

* In less than two years we have increased the number of sports clubs from 138 to 210;

* The number of sports coaches has been quadrupled and after-school sports clubs have been established.

Moreover, since stepping up efforts to promote sport in support of the games, we have witnessed a dramatic reduction in crime.

In the past year the number of young people making a first court appearance to face criminal charges has dropped by 25 per cent. This compares to a 1 per cent fall in other parts of London.

Juvenile court appearances in Newham, including those by first-time and repeat offenders are down by 38 per cent.

The benefits extend into the classroom. Being in the running for the Games has helped us to implement programmes such as the Olympics Links Project which saw every school paired with a competing country to study. The project was a huge success, helping to teach children about other cultures, global citizenship and diversity.

And when the Games arrive, the 11,0000 world-class athletes on our doorstep will provide role models for our young people, inspiring them to get involved and become active. We expect to see further positive benefits in the years ahead thanks to the Olympics.

Sir Robin Wales Mayor of Newham Town Hall, East Ham, London E6

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