This is the time to take time for a major sports strategy, not rush out plans to meet the emotion of the moment
Posted on 11 August 2012 | 8:08am
These have been two great weeks, and this is an important moment for the country. But my heart sank this morning on hearing the Prime Minister is to make an announcement on school and elite sport. Not because the government should not be doing all it can to capitalise on the energy and positivity and the joy these Games have brought. But because this is the time for a serious, thought through, long term sports strategy, not a few rushed together ideas to get himself on the news.
Tribal though I am, I have felt a bit sorry for David Cameron. His government is presiding over one of the greatest things ever to happen in Britain. But in so far as politicians are being deemed to be responsible, John Major brought in the lottery, Tony Blair delivered the Games, Boris Johnson has been the face of London, and Seb Coe has added all round legend to his already cemented sporting legend status. Meanwhile Cameron and his Cabinet colleagues have seemed tense and rather out of place. As for that stunted picture of Cameron sitting in Downing Street with a remote in hand, wearing a Team GB shirt, watching the boxing … Instead of showing how close to the mood of the Games he was, it showed how distant.
If he intends to reverse the cuts to school sports made by Michael Gove, all well and good. But this is a big moment which requires a big and considered response, not one rushed together overnight because he feels the need to catch up. He should enjoy the weekend, enjoy the sport, enjoy the closing ceremony, then go out and find the best brains in this field, and put together the team to ensure Operation Legacy ensures that these Games change Britain and our attitudes to sport not just for a few weeks, but forever.
Former Tory chief whip Richard Ryder, who is both nice and clever, said recently that the problem with the government was that none of the big figures were strategists, they were tacticians. He said Cameron and George Osborne in particular operated more like news editors than leaders. That is being underlined again today with this rushed out response to a success that has taken them all by surprise.
If the Olympics has shown anything, it is that the country wants big people providing big solutions to big problems. The Games have been successful because of long termism, attention to detail, and hard work. Not short termism, flying by seat of pants, and making it up as you go along.
Doubtless some will say the above is all too political. But this is too important a moment to waste. Sport can transform our country for the better. But the plans to do so need to be thought through, planned to meet the needs of a generation, not the feeling of a moment in time.