Is the Wrong Sort of Data Really Masking Olympic Sport Participation Legacy Progress?

As I noted a few months ago on my full blog, recent statistics show that the sport participation legacy target for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is likely to be achieved around ten years late in 2023. This story has been widely circulated through Associated Press today, with the piece carrying a response by Lord Coe, the Chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, that they may not be collecting the right kind of information to prove the goal is being met. Coe’s direct quote, not featured in the story, was that “we may not be collating some of that information to tell the story as well as we could, but the goal is being met”.

The problem for Coe and London 2012 is not only can they not, by their own admission, collate the information needed to show that the sport participation legacy goal is being met, but the most robust sports participation data ever collected in England tells us that the legacy promise is not being delivered. The Active People survey, which has an annual sample size of over 170,000, is the source of the trend that suggests that the sport participation goal will not be met until 2023. On a sample of that size, there is 99.9% confidence that results will be accurate to within +/- 0.4%. And with that level of confidence, the Active People data shows that in order to achieve the sport participation legacy target, on each and every day for three years from Autumn 2010, more than 800 new people must take up sport.

Against data as robust as is provided by the Active People survey, the claim that “the goal is being met” but that the wrong kind of data is being collected is just not credible. It makes the old British Rail claim that the train can’t move due to the wrong sort of snow seem sophisticated!

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