On the back of a tremendous StreetGames Festival at the Copper Box Arena last week the focus shifts to Cardiff and the Principality Stadium.  The iconic venue will place host to over 2,000 young people from the StreetGames network, Caro Wild, Wales Director for StreetGames shares his thoughts on the eve of the event.  

The Olympics are here again, and despite the dodgy elements, it is surely the world's finest example of cooperation, togetherness, organisation and shared vision.

Whilst for the small group of people that are involved in the serious side of sport the Olympics are a big deal, for the rest of the world I would argue the games are more of an international cultural celebration of unity and fun.

Legacy is often talked about, but there’s now enough evidence to suggest that the Games on their own do not seem to inspire generations of people to suddenly become sporty. Certain sports might get a boost in interest (especially in the countries where they excel), and a relatively minuscule number of individuals might personally be inspired to reach for the top. But the truth is, other than a spike of interest around the time of the Games there’s no legacy of any significant change to sport's participation rates, even in the host nations.

Tomorrow, StreetGames holds its very own version of the Olympics. Young people from across Wales’ most deprived communities have been invited to the Principality Stadium for a day to remember. Over 40 different sports and activities, a free T shirt and giveaways, a day out with their mates, all for free.

StreetGames is a charity that dedicates itself to increasing opportunities for young people from deprived communities to access sport. We do this because despite the many positive benefits sport brings to individuals and the communities they live, the truth is, more deprived communities are less likely to have suitable opportunities to be active.

Like the Olympics we don’t expect our event to suddenly create a new generation of active young people, if only if it was that easy. That work is being done on a more regular basis by a network of organisations on the other 364 days of the year on the front line in communities. They coach young people, put out cones, open up community halls, print out posters, create Facebook groups, break up fights, talk to young people on street corners and above all else create a safe and fun place for young people to hang out with their mates.

This is what we call Doorstep Sport, sport which is delivered at the right time, at the right price, by local energetic people, in a modern and unstuffy style and within a hop, skip, and a jump from where the young people live. And it’s working! There are now 53 doorstep sport clubs across Wales, and over 40,000 young people have got engaged in Doorstep Sport over the last 5 years. The programme is jointly funded by the Welsh Government, Sport Wales and various commercial and charitable partners.

Wales’ national governing bodies of sports are also doing their bit, realising that offering their sport in the traditional way to a limited audience doesn’t really provide the social impact our government rightly demands, nor their sports’ chances of growth any good.

  • The Welsh Rugby Union now sees new versions of rugby played in car parks and youth clubs across South East Wales, including ‘Cage Rugby’ (think bouncy castle crossed with rugby… surprisingly not as dangerous as it sounds).
  • Golf Development Wales has been pro-active in rolling out Street Golf provision, which has proved a huge hit across some of Wales’ most deprived communities, and has included young people from Newport attending events and workshops at the Celtic Manor.
  • Cricket Wales has created Pop-Up Cricket Clubs across Cardiff in parks in areas where young people wouldn’t normally be members of cricket clubs.
  • Football has also long been a driver of social change, and in Wales we have a Football Trust that will not only make the very most for Wales from the increased opportunities and resources available following Wales’ performances in the Euros, but were also very much part of influencing the success seen in France.

A progressive framework is being built in Wales, with bodies such as these now linking with community groups and taking their sport to communities and supporting the front line workers.

But whilst this hard work is being done at the coal face throughout the year, our one-day event does have a very important purpose, and it is linked to basic equality. Young people from deprived communities are unlikely to ever visit their national stadium, take part in day trips, or meet young people from other parts of Wales. Tomorrow they will get to do all of this. And to try new sports, which may help with their confidence to start taking part in now, or in a later stage of life. These are basic opportunities that Wales as a proud sporting nation needs to make sure are available to all.

We are proud that those young people sometimes considered ‘hard to reach’ actually prove very easy to engage when we get the offer right. We consider as close friends volunteers from the Gypsy and Traveller communities of Cardiff, staff from women’s refuges, youth workers working with young people with learning disabilities, large networks of Black & Minority Ethnic groups from Newport and Cardiff, grunters and skaters from Swansea, and a new growing network of Us Girls projects (focusing on inactive teenage girls from deprived communities). And you know what, in 4 years of similar events we haven’t had one fight, not one serious incident (well except for the year when some kids climbed on a cherry picker… perhaps they thought it was gymnastics apparatus?).

We can’t wait to welcome them all with massive smiles and see them all having a blast in the glow sports, boxing cage or street dance zone… check us out on social media and give us a shout out if you get the chance.

@streetgamewales #sport4all

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