THE BLOG

Legacy Is About More Than Medals

22/07/2014 09:53 BST | Updated 20/09/2014 10:59 BST

With the 2014 Commonwealth Games starting this Wednesday on the two year anniversary of the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games it's as good a time as any to look at how we hope to define a legacy from those heady summer weeks...

News last week that The All Party Parliamentary Group on Basketball had published its reports and recommendations for how the Government should look at the distribution of funding to sports that provide real social benefits alongside potential for sporting excellence has been well received by all those who believe that sport in this country should be about more than just the winning of medals.

So much in sport these days is all about the next big thing or the immediate success story. We don't seem ready to see a long-term plan for a sport that does not include Olympic or World Championship success in its immediate future.

Post-London 2012 and even after Beijing in 2008 so much of the conversation in British sporting circles was about "who is the next British Cycling?" or "who can match what British Cycling has done?" forgetting that what they did was not a sudden burst of success but rather something that had been long in the making. It also made us rather greedy for more of the same.

For a sport like basketball that Olympic or World success may not come for decades yet in the last five years the performances of the GB Teams has improved massively. After only two appearances in the European Championship finals in the previous 50 years, the Men's and Women's teams have made five appearances in the last five years. Britain has also provided a number of players to the North American college competitions with 55 young players from GB now competing in the USA's NCAA Division 1.

Basketball also benefits from being a sport with a diverse and strong base of participation within the UK with 70 percent of participants being under-25 and 50 percent coming from black or minority communities and many coming from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Yet none of this seems to matter because quite simply it is felt that because basketball cannot win an Olympic medal in 2016 or 2020 it is not worthy of UK Sport's Elite funding.

Of course there is no guarantee that basketball would have become the next British Cycling even with funding but you can't just assume that the only value of a sport is to bring success at an international level. There's so much more to it than that.

For the vast of majority of people competing there will be no recognition at that elite level or even the possibility of getting to that stage. However that does not need to be the end goal. For some just competing and playing for your team, your club or friends is enough recognition while for others it's the social aspect or health benefits that keep them motivated.

The worry is that we will measure our legacy from London 2012, where it was promised that it would "inspire a generation", in medals won at future Olympic and Paralympic Games and therefore the two will go hand in hand. Yet if you want to truly inspire a generation, there's more to it than medals.

You have to make sure that everyone has the chance to try different sports. Make sure there are facilities for people to go to. Make sure there are coaches and volunteers who can support those not only new to the sport but also those who want to go further. Make sure that even in sports where there may not be that immediate possibility of Olympic or Paralympic success there is something for the athletes to aim for.

Don't let a short-term desire for success blind us to the fact that creating a sporting legacy is about more than winning medals.