Olympics 2012: Is Rowing Still Elitist? (PICTURES)

PICTURES: Is Rowing Still Elitist?

Rowing has long been considered the sport of privately-educated children and has often been dubbed "elitist" - just look at Trenton Oldfied's disruption of the Oxbridge Boat Race earlier this year.

Recent statistics show third of Great Britain's 2012 Olympic team was educated in private institutions, despite only 7% of the country's children being privately educated.

And rowing, in particular, seems to be one of the worst offenders. This year, 19 members of the 47-strong team went to private schools, including Chris Boddy and Katherine Copeland, who both went to Yarm School, and Constantine Louloudis, who attended Eton.

Sir Steve Redgrave - state school educated - repeatedly dons his armour and becomes the sport's shining knight in the elitism fight. The five-times Olympic gold medallist has said rowing is one of "the most accessible sports".

"It has not been elitist since Victorian times," he said in early July, but others disagree:

The sport is notoriously expensive. Club membership alone can run into the thousands, while even the cheapest boats will set you back a couple of thousand. Add on the necessary kit, blades, transporting, as well as storing the boats - the never-ending costs will put many off.

So it seems while the sport itself is not elitist - more that state schools are left trailing behind the private sector as they simply do not have the funds, or the resources, to offer rowing as a sport. One tweeter Martin Coxall drily asked: "Isn't it only posh schools that have a river?"

Some seem to accept the imbalance as the status quo, while others draw attention to a more widespread problem, something which David Cameron addressed in July.

The Prime Minister said private schools were producing "more than their fair share" of medal winning athletes, with state schooled children being pushed out.

"Sport can change lives. So why is that in so many schools sport has been squeezed and facilities run down?" he asked.

"The result is that independent schools produce more than their fair share of medal winners and too many children think taking part in sport just isn't for them. We've got to change that."

With many of the current team being private school alumni, and the racing held at the spectacular Dorney Lake, home to the Eton College team, it may be difficult to shake the "elitist" tag - regardless of whether it fits.


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