Essex: Tendring lagging in sports participation as figures reveal the challenge facing county in capitalising on the Olympics

THE scale of the challenge facing Essex to capitalise on the success of the Olympics can today be revealed.

Figures obtained by the East Anglian Daily Times show the county has wide disparities when it comes to sport participation rates.

Just one-in-seven adults in Tendring do 30 minutes of exercise on three or more days a week, compared with more than one-in-four in Chelmsford.

But Essex sports chiefs say the county is in good shape and there are plans afoot to get the over-50s more active, to benefit areas like Tendring.

“We’re always striving for more people to take part in sports because of the well-known health benefits,” said David East, chairman of Active Essex. “Once people start to get involved with new sports they realise how it can be good and how much fun it can be.”

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The statistics, compiled by Sport England, also reveal Essex has made the biggest strides in the region in terms of increasing sports participation. Six years ago around 20% of adults regularly exercised, compared with more than 22% in 2012.

“I’m not massively concerned about the figures because I think we’re seeing a positive trend upwards,” added Mr East. “We’re one of the only authorities to have got that level of increase.”

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There is also much being done to tackle levels of sports participation. Programmes in Essex include encouraging more volunteers to run sports sessions, improving community facilities and offering free six-week taster sessions to get people to try a new sport.

Mr East said: “I think the Olympics are a huge opportunity for us but these programmes are not something we have just dreamt up - it’s something we have worked on for the last four years.

“The focus has gone from the opportunity to the legacy and these programmes are being rolled out even more aggressively.”

It comes as the Department of Health announced more than 14,000 schools have signed up the School Games contest - an initiative to get more young people enjoying competitive sport.

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