Games Monitor

Skip to main content.

Positive discrimination for disadvantaged athletes

Adedoja Atanda is 13. She likes dance, violin and football and, all things being equal, she is destined to take part in the 2012 Olympics. Ese Akpobi is just 12. She watched Kelly Holmes sprint to glory in the Athens Olympics. Now she is being readied for similar heroics in six years' time.

The two girls are among 30 youngsters who have been handpicked by British Olympic, European and Commonwealth champions as part of a scheme to hothouse competitors selected for their potential ability to win medals at the London Olympics. The youngsters, plucked from schools, colleges and sports clubs in east London, will receive an intensive programme of training and study in an attempt to bring them up to world-class standard.

As part of the Olympic Academy set up by Newham the youngsters will receive funding from a locally administered trust and will be eligible for bursaries. Their careers will be guided by an athletes' advisory board and they will be helped by mentors and sports psychologists. They will be admitted free to municipal facilities and attempts will be made to strike local sponsorship deals. Physiotherapy and massage will be available. Ian Beasley, a consultant based at Newham general hospital, will add medical expertise. Sports scientists from the University of East London have also been enlisted.

Officials are keen to confront the class bias in the UK's elite sports. Research by the British Olympic Association indicates that at least 60% of Britain's most recent medal winners went to affluent independent or private schools. Yet independent schools are attended by only 7% of the school population. Newham is one of the 11 most deprived areas in the country but it is also one of the youngest, with more than 40% of residents under 25. Forty-three per cent fall within the DE social group.
English Sports Council research in 1997 found 38% of elite performers studied came from the higher social groups, AB, which comprise 19% of the population. Only 10% were from the lower social groups, DE, a quarter of the population.

From: Olympic hope for a deprived community, Hugh Muir, October 19, 2006, Guardian

More at: Positive discrimination

| |