By Daniel Hunter
Councils have had to draft in extra lifeguards, coaches and leisure centre staff and extend leisure centre opening hours manage to a surge in demand from Olympics enthused residents.
As the 2012 Games draw to a close, a snapshot survey carried out by the Local Government Association has found swimming pools, gyms, athletics tracks and tennis courts across the country have seen an increase in users during Britain's Olympic summer.
Other sports in council-owned facilities which have seen more uptake include gymnastics, sailing, cycling, badminton, handball, fencing, table tennis, beach volleyball, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, canoeing, archery and hockey. Many councils' summer sports programmes for children have also been booked out.
Council facilities played a key role in the success of the 2012 Games with about a third of councils having their sports facilities used by Team GB or ParalympicsGB athletes.
- 44% of councils reported an increase in users during the Olympics.
- The ten sports where councils with those facilities have seen the greatest increase in users are swimming (36% of councils), gym (26%), athletics (17%), beach volleyball (13%), gymnastics (12%), sailing (11%), tennis (11%), badminton (9%), cycling/BMX (8%) and handball (7%).
- 28% of councils have had members of Team GB use their sports facilities over the past year, and 34% have hosted ParalympicsGB members.
"The scale of enthusiasm and wide variety of sports people are wanting to get involved in is really inspiring, and this snapshot survey just gives an indication of what's happening across the country," Cllr Stephen Castle, Chairman of the LGA's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Task and Finish Group, said.
"Many councils predicted a greater increase once the Olympics finished and they had fully collated their figures.
"Across the country council sports facilities are being inundated with people enthused by our Olympic summer wanting to get involved with sport. There are queues at swimming pools, leisure centres, gymnasiums and even beach volleyball courts. Summer sports programmes for children have also been booking out which is a great sign as engaging youngsters in sport and a healthy lifestyle is a key aim of the 2012 Games.
"A key measure of the success of the 2012 Games will be if sporting participation increases in the years ahead. Councils have a key role to play in this as it's their facilities people often rely on as they find private facilities prohibitively expensive. It's essential governing bodies, councils, local sports clubs and community groups work well together to seize the fantastic sporting fervour generated by the 2012 Games and make sure we keep people enthused about sport once the closing ceremonies a distant memory.
"Councils are doing all they can to manage government's 28 per cent funding cuts without reducing their sports and leisure services. They are striving to increase membership to generate income, joining with each other to make savings, negotiating contracts to get the most of every pound, sourcing external funding and working with voluntary groups, local sports clubs and business to reduce staffing costs and keep services going."
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