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Surge in sports participation as the Olympic and Paralympic Games draw near

June 23, 2012

For the first time more than 15 million people in England are playing sport once a week, every week.

The latest figures from Sport England’s Active People Survey show that 15.28 million people aged 16 and over are playing sport at least once a week, 500,000 more than six months ago and 1.3 million more than in 2005/6 when London won the Olympic bid.

“This is a strong set of results, with all of the key measures showing participation in sport is increasing,” said Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England. “As we approach the London Games some of our key sports such as cycling and hockey are already beginning to feel the Olympic effect. I am particularly pleased that there has also been a sharp increase in the number of disabled people who are playing sport every week.”

Twenty-one sports have shown a positive trend over the past six months, with particularly strong growth in the Olympic sports of cycling, football, athletics and hockey.

“Cycling in this country has never been in better health, said British Cycling Chief Executive, Ian Drake. “We’re on course to achieve our target of delivering a sustainable participation legacy before the Games thanks to our partnerships with Sport England and Sky, without whom we would not be seeing these results today.

“Grassroots initiatives like Sky Ride and Breeze are continuing to inspire people to get on their bikes and enjoy life on two wheels and it is particularly encouraging to see a rise in women’s participation. At the start of what could be British Cycling’s greatest summer, our ambitions remain high and the focus is on maintaining momentum and continuing to build on our success.”

Overall, the growth in sports participation continues to be driven by those aged 26 and over. Although the results for the 16-25 age group are more positive than they were six months ago, there is still a long-term downward trend. Our new Youth and Community Sport Strategy, announced in January, is helping us address this issue.

 “With the London 2012 Games round the corner it’s encouraging that sports participation is on the rise,” said Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt.

“Hosting the Games will give us the platform to go even further and inspire many more to take up sport. We want people to have a sporting habit for life. Going forward sports governing bodies will target the 14-25 year old age group to do just that and strengthen grassroots sport across the country.”

Today’s results also show encouraging signs of recovery among a number of sports, such as where participation had fallen in recent years. This includes sports such as such as rugby league, rugby union and golf which have had their funding reduced by Sport England, but have now made significant changes in their participation strategies.


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For more information on the sixth Active People survey visit the