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Olympic success spurs interest in grass roots sport

27 November 2012

Media release

Olympic success spurs interest in grass roots sport

New Zealand’s success at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games looks to be driving a surge of interest in those sports codes here at home.

Sport NZ Chief Executive Peter Miskimmin says many sports are anecdotally reporting an increase in numbers or membership enquiries in the aftermath of the London Games, including athletics, rowing, cycling, canoe and yachting.

“We know that seeing our sporting heroes succeed on the world stage can motivate people, young and older, to give those sports a go, and that’s what we’re seeing now,” he said.

“We saw a surge in football interest after the 2010 World Cup and the same thing happened with Rugby in 2011. Now it’s London’s turn.

Rowing is a good example. We’re hearing that clubs across New Zealand are putting out more novice crews than last year. For example, the Taupo Rowing Club, which had been going through lean times, now has lots of new rowers on the water. That’s great news.”

Miskimmin says the same thing is happening in athletics, with one Wellington club reporting membership figures in some categories that are 50% higher than at the same time last year.

“It seems too that Lisa Carrington’s gold medal has inspired lots of young people to try canoe racing, just as Ian Fergusson and Paul MacDonald did in their time.”

“Likewise Yachting New Zealand tells us that the presence of Olympians like Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie at regattas and open days around the country has drawn big crowds, with many wanting to try sailing for the first time. And the same sort of thing happened when Sarah Walker and Alison Shanks turned up at a Dunedin BMX Club event recently. That club now has almost double the members it had last year.”

Miskimmin says it’s a real credit to our Olympians that they’re prepared to share their success and be such great role models.

“This surge of interest in grass roots sport shows the real value of winning Olympic medals, and is why the Government invests in high performance sport. Winning Olympic medals gives us a real sense of national pride at the time. But it also motivates people to get out and try sports themselves, which is a valuable legacy. That means we have more people involved in sport and recreation, and have a bigger pool of future champions. That’s why Sport NZ and our sector partners work hard to ensure the pathway is there to take the emerging stars through to being our next winners on the world stage. “


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