Olympians’ golden success will inspire people in Suffolk to get fit and healthy

Great Britain's Mo Farah with his gold medal following the Men's 10,000m final at the Olympics Stadi

Great Britain's Mo Farah with his gold medal following the Men's 10,000m final at the Olympics Stadium on the eighth day of the Rio Olympics Games, Brazil. - Credit: PA

Sports chiefs say it essential to keep the momentum going and capitalise on the inspiration of Team GB’s record-breaking Olympians to get Suffolk fit and healthy.

The medal haul from the Rio Games has been the best ever for an overseas Olympics and officials hope it will encourage more people to get involved in not just mainstream sports but some of the lesser known ones, too.

After the London 2012 games, a campaign was launched to make Suffolk the “most active county in England” but after an initial influx of new people taking up sports, the numbers taking up a healthy lifestyle have fluctuated.

The aim this time is not to lose that impetus – to ensure the Games give more than a once every four years boost.

Tony Goldson, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for health, said: “It’s been an absolutely fantastic Olympic Games and we have really got to capitalise on it.

“Suffolk County Council will be working with and supporting a large range of organisations on projects to get people more active for all the right reasons and I will be giving that my 100% support.

“The athletes have been so inspiring and so exciting, and we now need to encourage people to take up the activities we have on offer here.”

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John Clough, director of Suffolk Sport, said the first opportunity to encourage people to get active would be in Saturday at the I Am Team GB event.

He said: “We hope to see that this event and the individual clubs taking part are well supported in Suffolk.

“With the nation gripped with Rio Olympic fever there has been so much to celebrate. Team GB have proved that despite some cuts in funding for some sports we have risen to the challenge and have won medals in a wide array of sports, inspiring the next generation of sporting greats in the process.

“The Olympics medal table is testament to sporting talent in the UK and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to develop, train award-winning athletes, sportsmen and women.”

Next month businesses in Suffolk will be encouraged to take part in the Workplace Games, and then on November 18 there will be a celebration of sporting clubs, coaches, heroes and teams at the Suffolk Sports Awards. Nominations for the awards can be made at www.suffolksport.com/Awards before September 16.

Suffolk Sport is also promoting funding for Talented Athletes in Suffolk, working in partnership with SportsAid to raise money to support the county’s best sportsmen and women to achieve their sporting goals and develop their talent.

It is also working with elite athletes acting as Suffolk Sporting Ambassadors – 12 took on the role after London 2012 and four more are joining after Rio to be role models for the next generation, attending events at schools and community groups in the county to inspire young people.

I Am Team GB

One of the first initiatives to spring from this summer’s Olympics takes place on Saturday – when sports clubs across Suffolk will be opening their doors for free taster sessions.

The national I Am Team GB event is being masterminded by The National Lottery and ITV – which is planning to switch off its TV channels for an hour to encourage people to get out and active – with support from the British Olympic Association.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said: “It’s important we continue to build on the success of the Games, a legacy we all have a responsibility for.

“A number of clubs have already committed to taking part with judo on offer in Felixstowe and a mini triathlon in Eyke. This is a golden opportunity for every sport and activity club to show what they have to offer and welcome new members.”

Events include volleyball, football and racketball sessions, parkrun events and free scrimmage sessions.

Visit the I Am Team GB website to see a full list of all the events available.

Felixstowe still striving for a more active community

Up to 5,000 people in the Felixstowe area regularly take part in organised sporting activities – from children as young as six to people in their 80s.

But while organisers are thrilled with the level of activity for a population of around 30,000 with the highest proportion of older people in Suffolk, there are still problems to overcome.

Michael Sharman, chairman of the Felixstowe and District Council for Sport and Recreation, said: “It is great to see so many people playing sport in our area and we want that number to grow – especially with the inspiration our Olympians have provided out in Rio and the interest they have created.

“But the biggest challenge I think for the future is finding more coaches and more backroom staff for the clubs.

“For example, we would love to have a cycling club and a triathlon club – two of our gaps in Felixstowe – but the biggest problem has been finding officials, people to run the clubs.

“This is getting more and more difficult for many clubs and yet a club thrives on its officials, its backroom staff who keep everything running smoothly. That’s why our awards each year not only have the usual Sports Personality of the Year Awards, but also a Club Official of the Year.”

Mr Sharman said the number of coaches was improving but this was still a crucial issue for many clubs and more were needed in most sports.

Essex still benefitting from London 2012 legacy

Ray Gooding, councillor for sport at Essex County Council, said he was proud of the London 2012 legacy which has survived in the county – earning it praise in a report from the Local Government Association.

The county council oversaw the creation of the Olympic mountain biking course at Hadleigh in south Essex, and now runs the facility – one of just a handful of such tracks to survive beyond the Games.

“The biggest issue was to try and get more people interested and taking part in physical activity, with the obvious spin off that leads to a healthy population and means things like the NHS have a smaller demand in the future,” Mr Gooding said.

But it is not just at an official Olympic site where the spirit of the Games lives on.

The work of Active Essex – an off-shoot of the county council working with Sport England – has helped develop elite athletes and tries to get more people involved in sport.

Mr Gooding also pointed to youth services such as outdoor activity centres, including those in East Mersea and Bradwell-on-Sea, which allow young people to try a range of sports including sailing – which may prove popular after Mersea girl Saskia Clark won gold in Rio.

In Colchester, the £10,000 Get Active in Colchester funding pot for non-profit groups and sports clubs can help provide activity sessions or events, while the council is investing a further £1.5million in its Leisure World centre to improve the facilities and encourage more people to try out the pool, gym and other activities.

The young are also benefiting, with the borough council helping to set up a weekly Junior Parkrun at the Old Heath Recreation Ground.

Leisure World is also joining in the country’s biggest sports day with the I Am Team GB initiative on Saturday, August 27.

During the day there will be free taster sessions in a range of sports, including badminton, tennis and gym classes.

Annie Feltham, Colchester borough councillor for leisure and opportunities, said: “Our hope is that funding will mean we can entice more people to get active and take part in local sports.”

Council leader Paul Smith added: “We are so pleased to be part of I Am Team GB. Sport brings families and communities closer together and we are immensely proud at Leisure World to be part of this nationwide celebration of sport.”

Visit the Leisure World website to book up a session on the I Am Team GB day.

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