Olympic effort goes unnoticed by PM

21st July 1995 at 01:00
As John Major was announcing his sports policy on the lawns of Number 10 at a breakfast for the great and the good in sports and education, 2,000 eight to 11-year-olds were limbering up in London's Crystal Palace.

With the help of Commonwealth pentathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis the youngsters were preparing for a day's mini sports events including six-a-side football, hockey, netball, swimming and athletics.

On Saturday and Sunday it was the turn of the older children. Around 13, 000 under-19s took part in the annual London Youth Games which were established in 1977 as part of the Queen's Jubilee celebrations.

The organisers were more than a bit miffed to learn that the Prime Minister had chosen Millwall Football Club as the venue for his press launch of Raising the Game instead of Crystal Palace. "We had 25 new image rugby teams playing proper matches here on Friday, not just a demonstration," said Maggie Latter from the London Events Agency, which manages the games.

They are now seen as a mini-Olympics for the capital's young athletes and as a fine example of club and school links, enabling progression to a high level. Numbers have doubled since last year and only two out of 33 boroughs (Hammersmith and Fulham and Haringey) fail to take part.

This year Havering won overall, Wandsworth won for inner London and Tower Hamlets won for fair play.

The games are organised by London Youth Games Limited,a non-profit-making company owned and guaranteed by the boroughs and the City of London Corporation. Last year Heath-row Airport Limited sponsored them and this year their Pounds 75,000 grant was complemented by the maximum award from the Government programme, Sportsmatch. "We were struggling, but now we can exist comfortably," said Maggie Latter.

At the opening ceremony, Eileen Gray, chairman of the company, who was awarded an OBE for her services to the Olympic movement, told Baroness Trumpington, junior minister at the Department of National Heritage: "We would not welcome an academy until we have money for the grassroots." Her message was endorsed by karate gold medallist, Jeff Thompson and won applause from her audience of London borough dignitaries. PM please note.

The Crystal Palace games are one element of the Heathrow London Games. A regatta at the Royal Victoria and Albert Docks with 2,000 youngsters, and a cross-country event at Barnet Copthall Stadium involving 1,500 runners aged between 10 and 18 complete the picture.

Ms Latter explained that the games allowed children from inner-city boroughs to take part in events they would not usually have access to: sailing, rowing and horse-riding are among the 34 sports in the competitions. And they are competitive. Even in the days when competition was frowned on, as a borough training officer in Brent, she found that councillors were keen to win. She managed to raise the teams from 29th place to fifth.

One visiting star, Jeremy Guscott, glamorous England international Rugby World Cup centre forward, who started playing mini-rugby at seven, thought there would be many future Olympic champions among the young athletes.

Some had other things on their minds. At the end of a question-and-answer session, the presenter asked if anyone wanted to know more about "our world- class player". "We want to see his legs," chorused the girls in the front row.



* All schools should offer two hours PE and sport in curriculum time and aim for four hours at lunchtime, weekends and evenings to achieve a Sportsmark, with a Gold Star for the most innovative; * School annual reports to set out sporting provision and achievement * OFSTED to inspect quality and range of games in and out of the curriculum and identify good practice; * Chief inspector to report annually on PE and sport; * Increased investment in coaching for teachers; * OFSTED to monitor and report on teacher-training institutions; * New teacher-training courses to meet sports requirements.


* New challenge fund to promote links between schools and clubs; * Consultation on Sports Council being allowed by law to block the sale of all playing fields; * School premises regulations to be retained for playing fields; * By 2000, all young people to have access to quality facilities.


* FE Funding Council and Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals to audit services and recommend that institutions publish information about sport in prospectuses; * Government to set up working groups to advise on sports scholarships and harnessing commercial involvement in development; * Government to revise FHE charters to expand references to sport.


* A British Academy of Sport to be established; * Governing bodies to set targets to ensure that talent is identified and supported; * Sports Council to co-ordinate financial support for elite athletes; * Emphasise ethical issues and continue with doping control programmes.

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