The games appeared to have provided the necessary impetus for the required change in Government policies (The Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism Committee, 2006). These changes in government approach to the youth is arguably evident from the recent proliferation of numerous policies affecting the young population and especially promoting sport and physical activity (Jones and Robert, 2000).
This essay attempt to confirm the generally held opinion that there has been a pronounced shift in the UK Government's policies concerning the young population, especially with regards to sport and physical activity, as a tool for improving skills and life chances, and reducing anti-social behaviours among youth. In this regard, this essay will look at the several Government programmes implemented since the successful bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games for their impact on improving physical activity among and also the rationale behind these programmes.
To start with, it is interesting to note that Government seem to have suddenly realised the cost of lack of activity in the population. Sport England paper (2004) reports that "Government has recognised the negative economic and social consequences of physical inactivity" and "the cost of physical inactivity in England was put, conservatively, at 2 billion per annum, representing at least 54,000 lives lost prematurely" (2004 p4). Under such situation, one can easily understand the Government's urge to improve the level of physical activity and sport, especially among the youths, as they constitute the most vibrant part of any population. Successfully winning the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, apparently, provided a better platform to role out the necessary programmes required to achieve this goal (Sandford et al, 2006; Jones and Robert, 2000).
In the London Plan for Sport and Physical Activity, the aims of planning for the 2012 Olympic games were highlighted as: increasing overall physical activity participation rates by an average of 1% per year; increasing participation by all under-represented groups; and providing the structures needed for individuals to realise their sporting potential (Sport England, 2004). Accordingly, the determination to maximise opportunities for children and young people to make physical activity part of their everyday life became a major driving force behind recent Government policies and programmes.
Commenting on the rationale behind current UK youth policies, Sandford et al (2006), argue that most contemporary UK policy initiatives have sought to locate youth 'disaffection' within the wider context of social exclusion, as evidenced by the formation of the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) in 1997 and thus, have attempted to use sport and physical activity to break down barriers, enable hard-to-reach youths become more socially inclusive, and also as a tool for re-engaging disaffected youths (Sandford et al, 2006).
The first sign of policy changes towards the young, recently, could be seen in the recent trend towards what is referred to as "Joined Up" policies (Bynner, 2001). Realising the sometimes negative