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Key London Olympic legacy ‘a failure’, says Tessa Jowell

The opportunity for the London Olympics to inspire a generation of children to participate in sport has been squandered, Tessa Jowell has said.

The former Olympics minister, who is standing to be Labour’s candidate for London mayor, blamed her “wicked and negligent successors” in government.

But Dame Tessa said the other key legacy pledge – the regeneration of east London – had been a success.

The government said 1.4 million more people were playing sport each week.

But a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said more needed to be done to attract people from all backgrounds.

Children ‘robbed’

Dame Tessa’s comments come exactly 10 years after London was awarded the Games. She was Olympics minister when the decision was announced.

She told the Guardian: “Instead of a generation of children being transformed by sport a generation of children have been robbed of the chance to discover a sport they’re really good at.”

She added: “We’ll go on wringing our hands about obesity, wringing our hands about the other benefits of sport and wondering in another five years time why we haven’t got more champions.”


The former MP for Dulwich and West Norwood criticised the government’s decision to cut funding for school sport, saying the move had “huge consequences” .

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“The most wicked and negligent part of it was winding up school sport partnerships. We’re back where we started in 2002,” she said.

“If a platform had been created and sports policy had been baked in to public health policy, you wouldn’t be worrying about obesity, you’d be investing in sport. You wouldn’t be worried about heart disease, you’d be investing in sport.

“You have to bake it into the Home Office, into health, into education and not see it as an optional extra in a way that sport on its own always will be.”

She added added: “I hope this is a huge stain on their consciences.”

Dame Tessa, who remained shadow Olympics minister after Labour lost power in 2010, was more positive about the impact the Games have had on east London.

“Here is the legacy – East Village, the best place in London to live – 3,000 homes there and more coming,” she told the newspaper.

“But the fact is that the coalition government allowed our very tight, deliberately targeted definition of legacy to become diffuse. I always knew that was a risk.”

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “We are investing over £1bn of public funding into grassroots sport over five years and there are 1.4 million more people playing sport each week than when the Olympic bid was won.

“More needs to be done to attract new people from all types of backgrounds to participate in a variety of sports – which is why the government is working on a new sports strategy to challenge sporting bodies to deliver on the public money they receive, and to strengthen community sport across the country.”

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