Dr Katie Dray discuss the lack of women in coaching on International Women’s Day.
Alcohol in pregnancy, why absence of evidence for a risk is not the same as evidence for absence of risk
Dr Hayley Mills, Dr Marlize De Vivo and Dr Chris Beedie, all from the Sport and Exercise Sciences programme, respond to yesterday’s news suggesting that women are being unfairly alarmed with regard to consuming alcohol when pregnant.
Dr Mark Uphill and Professor Jan Burns explain how their research could help improve athletes’ mental health.
Dr Chris Beedie explains why scientists should not let criticism and pseudo-science hinder scientific advancements.
Dr Dikaia Chatziefstathiou, looks at how sporting agencies need to work to unify people through sport.
Dr Chris Beedie explains how revelations about drug use in amateur sport could help change sporting culture.
Mike Weed, Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, explores whether promoting sport participation is the answer to combating the rise in obesity.
Today is World Obesity Day and the World Obesity Federation is claiming that if current trends continue, the number of obese adults worldwide will rise from 2 billion to 2.7 billion by 2025.
This year’s World Obesity Day is calling for ‘urgent government action to end childhood obesity’, with the President of the World Obesity Federation claiming that ‘doing nothing is not an option’ and the Federation highlighting that four in five young people fail to get sufficient physical activity.
One of the responses of the UK government has been its recent sport strategy, Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation, in which government intervention in sport participation through Sport England is extended to 5-14 year olds. In introducing the strategy, the Minister for Sport claims that ‘the impact that sport has… has never been more important when we are battling with growing levels of obesity’. This, however, is a flawed rationale for investment in sport participation.
Among adults the last ten year’s investment in raising sport participation, including an investment of over £1bn across the last five year cycle, has not changed the number of adults participating in sport once a week by more than +/- 1% from 35% of the population. In the same period, the number of adults who are physically active for 30 minutes or more on at least five days each week has risen by more than a fifth to 38% of the population. This clearly shows that, despite considerable investment in sport, people are choosing ways, other than sport, by which to become active.
As a response to a call for action to end childhood obesity, extending to 5-14 year olds the remit of government investment and intervention in sport that has not shifted sport participation in adults by more than +/- 1% in ten years seems a little more than inadequate. In fact, contrary to the call of the President of the World Obesity Federation, perhaps doing nothing would be a better option than investing in sport as an unproven vehicle to increase physical activity, let alone tackle obesity. Put simply: that obesity is a problem is not evidence that sport is the solution.
Professor Mike Weed is Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at Canterbury Christ Church University. His research for the Department of Health and the Department for Education has helped inform physical activity policy for young people.
Professor Mike Weed, Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Head of the School of Human & Life Sciences, comments on BBC Sport’s coverage of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Just over two weeks ago the world was looking forward to the start of the Olympic Games. And in the build up to the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony, BBC Sport turned its attention to a discussion of the “controversies” that had surfaced in the run up to the Games.
They certainly had plenty to choose from: the week prior to the Games had seen a schedule of Jogos da Exclusão (Exclusion Games) protests, another of which was gathering as the BBC Sport coverage rolled; Terres des Hommes reported on 600 families evicted from the favelas and on children’s rights abuses; Fora Temer protests against the perceived corruption of the interim Brazilian President, who was audibly booed at the Opening Ceremony despite attempts to drown out protests with music, included those against the cost of the Games; the Torch Relay seen live (as opposed to carefully chosen TV coverage) looked like a military parade; and all this was kept in check by a security presence of 85,000 police and military personnel to secure the green, blue and yellow jamboree in Rio 2016’s front-of-house. As the Games began, Calamidadeo Olimpica (Olympic Calamity) protests took place inside the Olympic Park and outside the Olympic Stadium, volunteers resigned over human rights abuses, and the Ford Foundation alleged the Games had brought violation of human rights, increased public debt, and the concentration of expensive infrastructure in prosperous developed neighbourhoods. ESPN reported that the enthusiasm usually evident around celebrations like Carnival and New Year’s Eve was noticeably absent, that nearly two out of three Brazilians believe the Games will bring more harm than good, and half disapprove of hosting the Olympics.
But for BBC Sport, the controversies being discussed on the eve of the Games were the increasing number of positive drug tests among athletes, and the systemic doping uncovered in Russia. A key issue for sport, perhaps, but not really on the same scale as 600 of the city’s poorest families losing their homes and the perception that the country’s failing economy has been exacerbated by the financial burden of the Games.
It is an oft repeated cliché that sport and politics shouldn’t mix, and BBC Sport concluded its eve of the Games discussion with all its sports star pundits agreeing that they hoped they could “now just focus on two weeks of top class sport”. But should we expect more of sports coverage from the nation’s public service broadcaster? Should we expect that the world’s premier sporting event is presented, not in a vacuum, but in the social and economic context in which it takes place? Should we expect sports reporters, first and foremost, to just be journalists?
Or are we, as viewers, complicit? Marxist scholars have compared sport to religion as an “opiate for the masses” that distracts the working classes from the real economic issues that affect their lives. But does the BBC Sport coverage of the Rio 2016 Games provide something different: an “opiate for the middle classes”? A gold, silver and bronze distraction that spares us the distress of having to see the real struggles that are taking place, and perhaps being exacerbated, in people’s lives behind Rio 2016’s heavily securitized Olympic curtain?
Professor Mike Weed is Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Head of the School of Human & Life Sciences. He was part of a global panel hosted in Rio in August 2016 that discussed good governance in bidding for and organising the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In only a few days’ time, on the other side of the world, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will get underway. Many of us will watch, but will the UK benefit? Certainly the government thinks that we might. Its Sporting Future strategy, published at the end of 2015, suggests that elite sporting success at the Olympic and Paralympic Games will improve national wellbeing, and increase sports participation and volunteering, and it has invested £275 million of our money on this basis.
If this sounds familiar, it is. Four years ago the legacy claims for the London 2012 Games were that it could deliver impacts for sport participation, economic growth and tourism, culture and volunteering, and the regeneration of the city. But that was for a Games hosted in London, with a significant celebratory festival effect that built into an increasingly anticipated crescendo over four years. Yet even with the build-up, the anticipation, and the largest medal haul in GB sporting history, the jury is still out on how far, if at all, the London 2012 Games delivered on its legacy ambitions.
So how likely is it that the UK will experience any meaningful benefits from the Rio Games. The Games will take place on the other side of the world, with many of the medals being won some time after midnight, so it is highly unlikely there will be shared national moments in which we collectively celebrate sporting success. Some of us will burn the midnight oil, some of us will catch up with events on breakfast TV or radio, and some of us will watch evening highlights programmes. This fragmented national experience is highly unlikely to create the conditions in which sports participation or volunteering impacts will be realized, nor is it likely to engender a shared sense of national wellbeing.
Yet this is the basis on which £275 million of taxpayers’ money has been invested in the pursuit of elite sporting success at Rio 2016. The government’s Sporting Future strategy is clear about this, noting that the success of investment in sport will be judged by the individual, social, community and economic development outcomes it delivers, not by the size of the medal haul. So no matter how many medals TeamGB wins, if the Rio Games do not deliver more people playing sport, more people volunteering, or a tangible sense of national wellbeing, then by government’s own standards, our £275 million investment will have been squandered.
Professor Mike Weed is Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Head of the School of Human & Life Sciences. His research on Olympic legacies has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Department of Health and the Mayor of London.
Dr Elaine Brown, School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing, asks if a change in focus by French Police is causing order problems