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  • 13 May 2014 00:00
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We are not shying away from the tough questions at Sport England says Bitel

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Sport England Chair Nick Bitel said the agency are "not shying away from the tough questions” in their bid to increase the amount of people across the country taking part in sporting activity.

One of the key London 2012 legacy objectives was to increase sports participation and Sport England are playing a leading role in the task as they invest over £1 billion of funding between 2012 and 2017 in a variety of organisations and projects they will help achieve this goal.

Sport England’s Active People Survey (APS) has displayed mixed results since the conclusion of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics but Bitel is confident the agency on the right track.
 
"Figures in our most recent APS were positive and showed an increase in sports participation,” Bitel exclusively told Community Sport Network.

"They revealed that 15.5 million people are playing sport once a week, every week, which is an increase of over 1.5 million since London won the bid to host the Games. 

"But we maintain that when it comes to sports participation, there is still a lot more that needs to be done. 

"There was a decline in the number of young people playing sport and there are still far more boys than girls playing sport and that is a problem. 

"These are really fundamental questions and they are questions that we are asking ourselves at Sport England as we look to address the issue. 

"We are not shying away from the tough questions. It is difficult to see a rise in participation figures in the next APS (due to be published in June 2014) because this year has seen an unprecedented amount of rainfall that – amongst other problems for sport – has caused severe damage to pitches which has obviously prevented physical activity  from taking place. 

"But that will not deter us in our mission to increase the number of people who play sport regularly as we continue in our aim to make lives better through sport.”

Bitel is also London Marathon CEO having been in that role since 1995. 

Under his direction, the London Marathon has become perhaps the greatest marathon in the world but despite huge media focus on the elite racers such as Mo Farah – Bitel says he sees it more "as a community focused event.”

"That is the reason why I believe so many people find it so compelling,” explained Bitel.

"Obviously we have the elite races and it is great to have the very top athletes like Mo Farah involved in them because that inspires people to take up running and sport in general but I think even more inspirational than the elite runners are the human interest stories from the community runners. 

"We had over 35,000 people running in the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon (which took place last month) and every single one had their own tale. 

"We see thousands of people running to raise money for charity and so many examples of triumph over adversity. 

"We saw a record crowd of over 750,000 people turn out this year to support the runners on London’s streets and that is because it is very much a community focused event. 

"So while the elite runners like Mo are very important; the human interest stories and the impact they have on the community are just as important.”

To read the full exclusive "Catch-Up” with Nick Bitel, Click Here

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