One year on - a look at Yorkshire’s Olympic legacy

Pic Joan Russell
Jessica Ennis receiving a rapturous reception from the city of Sheffield at her Oly

Pic Joan Russell Jessica Ennis receiving a rapturous reception from the city of Sheffield at her Olympic homecoming Civiv Reception. - Credit: Joan Russell

Thousands more young people have taken up sport around the county as part of the Olympic Games legacy, reports David Marsh

A year ago Yorkshire was basking in the golden glow of a glorious Olympic summer. The London Games were hailed a sporting and organisational triumph. ‘God Save the Queen’ became the soundtrack to the summer of 2012 as Team GB’s Olympians and Paralympians took to the podium time and again following a string of medal-winning performances.

Great Britain picked up a total of 65 Olympic medals – 29 of them gold - and Yorkshire was at the forefront of that success with athletes from the county contributing seven gold, two silver and three bronze medals to the magnificent haul. Triathlete Alistair Brownlee, boxer Luke Campbell, heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, cyclist Ed Clancy, rowers Andy Triggs-Hodge and Kat Copeland and boxer Nicola Adams – her beaming smile as bright as the medal she proudly wore – all carried off gold. Great Britain won 120 medals in the Paralympics – 34 gold. Yorkshire’s Hannah Cockroft, Danielle Brown and David Stone were among the winners.

Indeed if Yorkshire were an independent country, newspaper headlines announced at the time, it would have been placed 12th in the medal table, higher than a host of major sporting nations such as South Africa, Spain and Brazil.

Celebratory gold-painted post boxes appeared at locations across Yorkshire to mark the gold-winning exploits of the successful athletes. But a year on, have the Games delivered on their legacy pledge to inspire a generation and encourage more people to be active? There’s evidence to suggest they have.

A new survey for Sport England shows that 1.521m people in Yorkshire now play sport – 35.2 per cent of the county’s population and an increase of 171,000 since 2005 when London was awarded the Games.

Sport England figures also show 25,255 teenagers and young adults in Yorkshire have so far benefitted from free or discounted six-to-eight week courses in 70 different sports through Sportivate, a Lottery funded legacy project launched in June 2011 as a four-year programme aimed at 14 - 25-year-olds who were not doing sport in their own time.

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Sport England’s Director of Community Sport, Mike Diaper, said: ‘There’s lots to celebrate in grassroots sport in Yorkshire. A year on from the Olympic Games, more than 25,000 young people in Yorkshire have benefitted from Sport England’s Sportivate legacy programme to get youngsters involved in sport and 40 sports groups have benefitted from around £50,000 each of Lottery funding through our Inspired Facilities fund.

‘The key to Sportivate’s success has been listening to what young people want from sport locally and then offering a great sporting experience at times and places that fit with their lives.’

Regardless of Olympic success, Yorkshire is a county with a strong and proud sporting tradition that is about to be enhanced by a number of high-profile events. In recent months Alistair Brownlee and his brother Jonny, winner of Olympic bronze in the triathlon, have spoken of the growing interest in their sport and an increase in the number of people taking part.

To help foster that interest further, the brothers have joined forces with the National Trust to host their first ever triathlon at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal on September 21st. The ‘Brownlee Tri’ is a super-sprint triathlon of a 400m swim, 10km bike ride and 2.5km.

On October 20th over 6,000 runners will line up for the first Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon in York. Places were snapped up quickly for the event, which starts and finishes at York University and takes in the heart of the ancient city and surrounding villages and countryside.

October also sees the start of the Rugby League World Cup. The game was founded at the George Hotel in Huddersfield in 1895 and Leeds, Hull, Halifax and Huddersfield are all hosting World Cup matches.

Cycling is already big in Yorkshire, helped by the Olympic medal success of Huddersfield’s Ed Clancy and Otley’s Lizzie Armitstead, and it is set to get even bigger. Huge numbers of visitors will head for Yorkshire next year when the Tour de France, the world’s biggest cycle race, comes to the county on July 5th and 6th.

Another sport dear to the county’s heart is cricket. Some of the finest players to have graced the game have hailed from the Broad Acres and the current crop of Yorkshire stars – Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan – are helping to maintain that rich heritage with some excellent performances for both county and country.

Horseracing is a key part of the region’s sporting mix. Yorkshire has seven race courses including Doncaster, which each year hosts the St Leger, established in 1776 and the oldest of the five English Classics. Earlier this year 66-1 shot Auroras Encore, trained near Bingley by Sue Smith, wife of former showjumping champion Harvey Smith, upset the odds by romping home to win the Grand National.

There was tennis success last year when Sheffield’s Jonny Marray won the Wimbledon men’s doubles title with Frederik Nielsen of Denmark. And with the county once against boasting a Premier League football team following Hull City’s promotion last season, it is clear sports fans in Yorkshire have much to cheer.