BMX World Championships is fitting finale for remarkable build-up to London 2012Subscribe
Grace Cullen 23 May 2012
- UK Sport investment has helped support 21 World Championships since 2007
- BMX the final UK Sport-backed World Championship staged before London 2012
- UK Sport research reveals the inspirational power of staging major events on home soil
The thrills and spills of the UCI BMX World Championships in Birmingham this week will mark the conclusion of a remarkable run of events hosted in Britain as part of the build-up to London 2012.
Investment and expertise from UK Sport, the nation’s high performance sport agency, has helped more than 110 events, of which 21 have been world championships in Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, to be staged in the UK since 2007.
The World Track Cycling Championships in Manchester, World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Birmingham and World Badminton Championships in London are among the events which have given British athletes the chance to experience competing in front of a home crowd and given spectators the opportunity to watch live sport of the highest quality.
UK Sport’s World Class Events Programme has committed up to £300,000 into staging the UCI BMX Word Championships which will give star British riders Shanaze Reade and Liam Phillips the chance to compete against a world class field. The event is also the last chance for nations to secure valuable qualification points as they strive to earn their place at London 2012.
To stage the championships, which run from May 24th-27th, a state-of-the-art track has been temporarily built at the 4,000 capacity National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. As part of the bid an undertaking was also made to ensure there was a lasting legacy from staging the world championships and a permanent track has already been built in Perry Park, Birmingham thanks to investment from Sport England, British Cycling and Birmingham City Council. This is now home to the biggest BMX club in the country.
In another initiative pupils from local schools have had the chance to race on the track and club riders will get their turn on Sunday.
British BMX star, Liam Phillips, said: “It’s an opportunity to perform in the UK a couple of months before the Olympics and deal with a home crowd and everything else that goes with competing in the UK and that’s not really anything we’ve dealt with before. It should be great for us prior to the Olympics and also great for all the people who come along to watch. Hopefully it will inspire some of them to get along to their local club and try this brilliant sport for themselves.”
Research from UK Sport suggests attending live sporting events has an almost unrivalled impact in encouraging people to want to get involved in sport. Of 7,500 spectators polled at ten events over the last two years, eight of which have been part-funded by UK Sport’s National Lottery funded World Class events Programme, 57 per cent said being there had inspired them to want to participate in sport. When one looks at the actual number of people who attended these events, this would equate to around 50,000 individual spectators.
The study showed that the inspirational effect of major sporting events is felt most powerfully in the young, with 70% of spectators under 25 reporting to feel inspired, compared to 47% of those spectators over 45.
Liz Nicholl, CEO of UK Sport, said: “UK Sport currently invests in major events primarily to capitalise on the home advantage benefits for British athletes to support their performance ambitions in 2012. However, the wider benefits, such as economic impact and engaging the public with sport, have always been a consideration.
“Beyond 2012, our investment of National Lottery funds into major sporting events is set to increase, and these wider objectives will become increasingly influential in our event hosting strategy. This research will prove valuable to UK Sport, our partners within home country sports councils and national governing bodies, in understanding how best to engage the public in the events we are hosting and putting this initial inspirational effect to good use.”
Despite the potential benefits identified for sport, the study acknowledges that the impetus generated by an event needs to be maintained by connecting it to programmes like those initiated by British Cycling at the BMX Championships.
Phil Smith, Director of Sport at Sport England, said: “This research underlines the importance for grassroots sport of capitalising on the inspirational power of big sporting events. With London 2012 fast approaching, sports such as cycling have excellent plans in place to convert the spark of interest into sustained participation.”
UK Sport’s World Class Events Programme has grown exponentially since London won the bid to host the 2012 Games, with over 100 events, across 35 different UK towns and cities taking place between 2007 and 2012, providing more than 3.5 million opportunities for spectators to see world class sporting action. Funding for the programme is set to increase after 2012 to £5million per annum, to ensure the United Kingdom remains one of the world’s leading sporting hosts.