LONDON – Jerseys down to their knees, sitting on their parents’ shoulders cheering for their countries loud and proud, these tiny flag bearers will one day run the world. The XXX Olympiad, which concluded Sunday, was dedicated to them.
But many believe “Inspire a Generation” fell short for children outside the London fence.
The slogan was supported with an initiative in the United Kingdom to help get children who are not ordinarily active in sports excited about the Olympic games. The Get Set educational program is one of the many schools outside of London which got involved before the games began.
“We used sport to inspire young people to strive for better, using the Olympic and Paralympic values as a guide to live their lives. It’s not just about kids performing in elite sport, but a way of living,” said former Northhamptonshire County Council teacher Anna Letts.
But the lack of funding in school systems surrounding London has left the next generation struggling to keep up.
“Sport has the power to engage wherever, but there was no effort or or funding made to enable us to take children to the Olympic Park and get them tickets,” Letts said. “However, we made the best of it and got involved in cultural Olympiad festivals, arts, dance, torch relay.”
Letts wants to see the pride of the Olympics spread throughout Great Britain, not just London.
“I am a bit skeptical, as there has been a lot of buildup and resources supplied for schools before but we haven’t heard anything about what will happen afterwards,” she said.
Teachers will look to the stars of the games to help spread the passion of the Olympics to the children who may only see the games through a glass screen.
“They will always inspire children, but they need to be visible,” Letts said. “When athletes retire, if they can get involved in grassroots level as well as elite coaching, that will benefit a great deal more. The kind of children I work with want to enjoy and take part.”
Letts said the legacy of the 2012 Olympics must be spread throughout the world. Team USA Olympians are responsible for inspiring the generation across the ocean.
“I think it’s a great motto for the Olympics, ‘Inspire a Generation,’” said Diana Taurasi, three-time gold medal winner of the women’s basketball team. “I think at home we need to change a little bit of our generation and prioritize what is important to us and get back to just being a good society and a good neighbor.”
Men’s basketball star Kobe Bryant agrees.
“I think if we can do that by doing camps and clinics and talking to kids, I think that really helps,” he said. “You inspire people by your work ethic, by your commitment to the sport and then by communicating that.”