'Olympics legacy is your chance of a lifetime'
A crashing wave of sporting optimism heralded by the London Games, and typified gloriously by Burghfield Common diving sensation Chris Mears (pictured) who cheated death 10 years ago to make the finals of his event, has swept over the district in the last month.
Sporting clubs are being swamped with membership requests, volunteering enquiries are up, and schools have promised to widen their range of activities in the hope of invigorating those who may ordinarily have been lost to a life of apathy and lethargy.
The president of Newbury Athletic Club, Keith Scott, said every single person in West Berkshire could take something positive from the Games into their own lives, but stressed the importance of acting now before enthusiasm fades.
And he called on the Government to loosen stringent checks around the sporting credentials of potential coaches and enable those without paper qualifications to help out at grass roots level.
Paul Cooke, who has run the Thames Valley Amateur Boxing Club in Newbury for 33 years said he had received an extraordinary number of enquiries from a boys and girls of all ages wanting to follow in the footsteps of their new Olympic pugilist heroes Anthony Joshua and Nicola Adams.
“It's been none stop. We do need more support though,” he said.
“We don't do it for money but event nights are the only nights we make anything and that keeps us going.
“It’s not about hitting each other, it’s all about fitness and endurance, and we teach the kids discipline too. Some come in and you see them turn their lives around.”
Park House School in Newbury played a key role in the organisation of the Olympic games, providing Games Makers who acted as kit carriers, data analysts and street entertainers.
Headmaster Derek Peaple said the most important thing was to widen the net of sporting opportunity for young people to ensure that every child could attempt as many sports as possible.
“You don't move immediately into elite sport, you need opportunities for participation in the first place before they move to the more particular areas of focus,” he said.
His counterpart at Kennet School in Thatcham, headmaster Paul Dick, said it was a job for everybody, and called on business, councils and anyone with spare cash to invest in better pitches, changing rooms and equipment.
The leader West Berkshire Council and Lambourn pharmacist, Graham Jones (Con, Lambourn) said the inspiration needed to be carried on beyond the two weeks of competition.
“The Olympic legacy must be about the nation, particularly our children, getting more active. Our medallists showed what can be achieved by determination and belief,” he said.