Ignite Sport > News and Blogs > The Olympic Games: how it inspires a new generation of participants and coaches

 “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle.” 

Those are the legendary words of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee. More than eight decades on from Mr Coubertin’s passing, his thoughts still ring true across all forms of sport.   

Between now and Sunday, September 5, more than 15,000 of the world’s most talented athletes will participate in the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.  

Much has changed since the first Olympic Games were hosted in Athens in 1896. But there are many constants.  

To mark the Games of the 32nd Olympiad, we explain why sport will always be here to inspire generations and help people become the best version of themselves.  

Olympic values  

It was Mr Coubertin’s belief that organised sport helps establish moral and social strength.  

Regardless of people’s race, nationality or income, he believed everyone should be entitled to access good education and sport. This vision led to the formation of the Olympic Games we watch today.  

The legacy left by Mr Coubertin and his colleagues means Olympic host cities continue to develop inclusive education programmes that represent the Games’ key values of
excellence, respect and friendship.  

Education and sport programmes of this kind are now an important part of society. At Ignite Sport UK, we are extremely proud to be at the forefront of supporting the provision of sport across the UK via apprenticeships, adult education and youth sport programmes  

Inspiring everyday success  

Since its formation, the Olympic Games has inspired generations of people through sport and its ability to change lives.  

Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Sir Chris Hoy are prime examples of athletes who have excelled in their field. But there are others whose impact on sport has been equally significant:  

Ellie Simmonds OBE - Simmonds was born with achondroplasia, a condition which affects 1 in 27,500 people and causes a person’s arms and legs to be of shorter length. Aged 13 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Simmonds won gold in the 100m and 400m freestyle events.  

Simmonds is now a patron of the Dwarf Sports Association UK, ambassador for The Scout Association and WaterAid and was recently appointed to the Birmingham 2022 organising committee board. 

Tanni Grey-Thompson - An eleven-times Paralympic gold medallist, Tanni Grey-Thompson is one of Team Great Britain’s most successful disabled athletes.  

After retiring from competition, she was introduced to the House of Lords and sits as a crossbencher. She has also been awarded an MBE and later OBE for services to sport. 

Eddie Edwards - At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Eddie ‘the eagle’ Edwards became the first British Olympic ski jumper in 60 years. Despite placing last in the normal and large hill events, Edwards’ commitment inspired a generation.  

At the Games’ closing ceremony, Frank King – president of the organising committee – said: “You have broken world records and established personal bests. Some of you have even soared like an eagle.”  

London 2012 

When the British Olympic Association first started work on London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games in 1997, it did so with two key aims.  

To establish pride in British sporting achievements and encourage people to participate in sport regularly. The gold medal drama we watch on television is merely a small percentage of the Games’ full picture and impact.  

A Government survey revealed 52.2% of people were more interested in sport because London hosted the Olympics in 2012.  

Furthermore, 37.8% of those surveyed confirmed they were encouraged to take part in sport more often. Interestingly, a quarter of those who were more encouraged to take part in sport were from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.  

Participation pyramid 

At Ignite Sport UK, we work closely with individuals and groups operating across all levels of the sports participation pyramid.  

The pyramid illustrates the stages of development in sport from mass participation at the bottom to excellence at the top. As you advance up the pyramid, the number of people participating reduces.  

Even the greatest Olympic athletes started at the bottom of the pyramid – the foundation stage. Foundation is best defined by our work in schools and at Oxford City
Football Club.  

This includes the delivery of PE lessons, Wildcats Girls sessions and Fun Football.  

Next is participation – representing your local team in a regional competition, for example. Representing one of Oxford City FC’s Youth and Junior teams managed by Ignite Sport UK is part of the participation phase.  

Then it’s performance. This is where specific skills are taught and developed through coaching and competition. Velocity Football is an example of competing at the performance phase.  

Lastly, excellence. Many Ignite Sport UK employees have reached this level.  

Coaches Josh Ashby and Harvey Bradbury currently play for Oxford City FC while Lauren Haynes is captain of Oxford United Women. Emma Bush also represents Thames Valley
Cavaliers in National Basketball League Division One.  

Be the next role model  

Do you remember your first sports coach? The person who inspired you to kick a ball, run a full lap of an athletics track or take the plunge into the pool.  

We can all reflect on our childhood sporting achievements with great pride. But behind every great sporting memory are the unsung heroes – our coaches.  

At Ignite Sport UK, we work with coaches of all levels to enhance and develop their knowledge of sports coaching via physical and virtual courses.  

Coaches on our courses have a positive impact in their communities by directly supporting the provision of sport for participants of all abilities and inspiring the next generation of athletes.  

A full list of our adult education courses and their availability can be viewed here.   

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