By Daniel Hunter
As the country gears up for the 2012 Games councils are already looking to make sure their communities continue to benefit from the sporting spectacular once the closing ceremony's a distant memory.
As well as the making the most of the new physical infrastructure, such as the athletics stadium, velodrome, Olympic village and aquatics centre, a key element of making the Olympics and Paralympics a success is boosting participation for people of all ages and abilities in the long-term.
At the heart of this national legacy goal is local councils, sports clubs and the communities they serve working together to get the most of new facilities and any extra funding they receive.
Already councils across the country have supported a huge range of initiatives to lay the groundwork for a successful legacy, from holding youth sports days to investing in multi-sports centres. And once the starting gun has sounded for the final time, innovative projects are planned to capitalise on Olympic and Paralympic games sites to integrate them into their local community.
Cllr Stephen Castle, Chairman of the LGA's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Task and Finish Group, said:
"Everyone's excited about welcoming the world to the fantastic celebration of sport that will be taking place across the country this summer. From managing the torch relay to laying on giant TV screens, councils are geared up to play their crucial role in helping communities get the most from the Olympic and Paralympic games.
"However, we're also keeping a keen eye on what happens after the games, five years, ten years and 20 years down the line when the closing ceremony is a distant memory. While most other organisations will be winding down, for many councils this is where much of the hard work begins to ensure the huge potential to get more people involved in sport and make our communities healthier isn't wasted.
"We're already seeing a wide range of exciting projects taking shape to make the most of funding opportunities from national bodies, as well as innovative partnership working to capitalise on the dozens of facilities built especially for the games. The real measure of success though will be if sporting participation increases in the years ahead. Sports governing bodies, councils, local sports clubs and community groups need to keep enthused and working together to make sure this happens."
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