Prime minister vows that London 2012 will have positive effect on UK economy as he boasts of sporting and social legacy
David Cameron has declared that Britain has “shown the world what we are made of” and vowed that the success of the Olympics would leave a positive legacy for sport, volunteering and the British economy.
With Britain third in the medal table and the Paralympic Games still to come, Cameron used the midpoint of London 2012 to declare that “Britain delivered” and had shown itself to be “not a country whose time has been but whose time has come”.
“We showed the world what we are made of, we reminded ourselves what we can do and we demonstrated that you should never ever count Team GB down and out. The lesson of these past weeks is that Britain can, and should, be ambitious.
“Frankly, we have got to dismiss the cynics who say we cannot do big things and prove them wrong. We in this country are going to make sure that these are not just Games that made history but the Games that helped to shape our future.”
As the Games prepared to draw to a close on Sunday, a clearly cheered prime minister paid tribute to a “truly great country” where a boy born in Somalia, Mo Farah, could come to the UK, seize on the opportunities “and run his way into the nation’s heart”.
“Over the last couple of weeks we have looked in the mirror and we like what we have seen as a country,” he said.
The prime minister, who has appointed Lord Coe, chair of the London 2012 Olympic organising committee (Locog), as his Olympic legacy adviser to help secure the long-term benefits of hosting the Games, vowed to draw on this spirit to ensure the impact of the Games “isn’t just for the summer, but for good”.
He promised a “physical legacy” that would ensure the Olympic Park was put to good use, an economic legacy “with new deals broken on the back of these Games”, one for volunteers who want to play a part in a “bigger society”, and one for sport.
Cameron confirmed that sport would continue to receive £125m a year up to the next Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, with £87m coming from the national lottery and £40m from the exchequer.
The prime minister also defended his decision to put competitive sport such as football, hockey and netball in a new draft PE curriculum, due to be published in the autumn – a measure announced over the weekend as he faced down calls to bring back a target for pupils to do two hours of sport a week.
“We are saying out with the bureaucratic, anti-risk, all-must-have-prizes culture, which has led to a death of competitive sport in too many schools, and in with the belief that competition is healthy, that winning and losing is an important part of growing up” said Cameron.
He added: “The trouble with so many of the top-down targets is they become something that schools think once you’ve achieved, that’s it. I think that’s been one of the problems in the provision of sport.”
The move will only cover local authority-run state schools, however, since academies and free schools are free to set their own curriculum.
Cameron said he believed in giving schools much greater freedom but felt it was “a mistake” that the national curriculum currently makes no mention of “competitive sport”.
“The two are totally reconcilable – the competition between schools that we are going to see, now that more schools are academies and more schools have these freedoms, I think will engender great competition in terms of schools wanting to do more to respond to the demand that parents and children have for sporting activity, physical exercise and all the rest of it.
“So competition and choice and diversity will help to drive up provision but at the heart of the national curriculum should be a few simple ideas about what we mean when we talk about sport in our schools.”
Commenting on the fact that his two older children were at a state school that didn’t have a green space as big as the Downing Street garden to play, Cameron said he wanted his children to have the chance to play mainstream sports such as football, rugby and netball “alongside really important things in terms of PE”.
Meanwhile, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, defended the requirement for two weekly hours of PE in schools, saying that it had seen a big rise in the number of children doing sport.
He told BBC News: “I think at least two hours of sport in school a week, that was the idea that the last Labour government had, I think it was the right thing to do and we saw a dramatic improvement in the number of kids doing two hours’ sport – from something like 25% to 90%.”
But the Labour leader stressed he did not want “political argey-bargey” and said he wanted to see a cross-party 10-year plan for sport.