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Olympics don’t make people more active: academic

If previous trends hold true, the Vancouver Olympics won’t inspire local children and teens to take up sports, a Canadian academic suggested today.

Organizing committees tend to sell the Games as the “chance of a lifetime” to get younger generations excited about physical activity, University of Toronto professor and Olympics critic Helen Lenskyj said during a talk at UBC’s Green College.

“That is a very popular rationale,” she said. “That has to be questioned – it can’t be taken for granted.”

Studies of sport participation in Australia after the 2000 Summer Games produced inconclusive results, Lenkskyj said. In fact, she added, research showed more Australians watched televised sports in the years that followed.

“There was greater passive involvement. More couch potatoes watching TV,” she said. “That’s not a positive legacy.”

A VANOC-commissioned report on Games legacies in North America said hosting the Olympics gives children “motivation from inspiring athletes” and “increased opportunity for participation in sport.”

The provincial government is spending an estimated $500,000 on the 2010 Spirit School program, a plan to make students healthier by tapping into Games excitement.

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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