Olympic enthusiasm: ‘We must build on children’s excitement’

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As the thousands who turned out for the Olympic torch relay through the Lothians proved, there is no lack of enthusiasm locally for the London Games.

Particularly encouraging was the number of children on the sidelines who seemed genuinely excited to be part of something historic as the torch passed through.

The challenge now is to capture and develop that enthusiasm into a lifelong active lifestyle rather than a passing fad – to ensure our youngsters are just as interested in badgering their parents for sporting equipment as for the latest Olympics game for their Xbox or Playstation.

Edinburgh’s Olympic legend Allan Wells is a man we should listen to. He talks bluntly of the Games giving kids a “kick up the backside” to get out and get active.

He’s right and he has earned the right to say it, but words are easy. What is needed is action and we need hard evidence that the legacy of what has been a very expensive investment for the whole of the UK lasts longer than the closing ceremony – and travels further than the outskirts of London.

University of Kent research last year suggested that “sporting excitement on its own will not sustain participation” without a broader strategy towards an “active lifestyle”.

For that, we have to look at grassroots opportunities. Figures show that while the situation is getting better, more than a third of primary schools in Edinburgh are still failing to hit the unambitious target of two hours of sport a week, an election promise by the SNP as long ago as 2007.

Allan Wells grew up in an age without the distraction of video games or the over-protection of today where parents – often quite rightly – no longer open the door and let the kids run out.

But while we live in different times, one thing that hasn’t changed is the natural enthusiasm of children. For them, we need to pick up the Olympic torch and run with it.

Banish the barriers

It seems like a strange way to improve road safety – by removing the one barrier between the pedestrian and motorist.

But evidence is mounting that taking away guardrails not only declutters streets but cuts accidents.

As we know when it comes to transport projects, what works elsewhere does not always work in Edinburgh, but this seems like an interesting idea which is worth pursuing.

Of course, there is one set of barriers which we would all like to see removed as quickly as possible . . . the ones guarding the tram roadworks.