Olympics: Britain's successes at the London 2012 Olympics have inspired record numbers of men and women to play sport every week, according to figures released by Sport England today.
The grassroots funding body said that its Active People Survey results covering the year to October 2012 showed that 15.5 million people aged 16 and over are playing sport each week.
This marks a rise of 750,000 compared to just a year ago, as well as an increase of 1.57m from when London won the right to host the Games in 2005.
And it is believed that the effect of a hugely successful Games for the host nation, where stars such as Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, David Weir and Sarah Storey captured the public’s imagination, can clearly be seen in increased participation levels after the Games, with cycling, sailing and volleyball gaining a boost in numbers.
Sport England’s chief executive Jennie Price said that the sports that had done best were those that had planned to capitalise on the Games.
“This is a really substantial increase,” she said. “It’s an awful lot given the economic conditions, the weather and the fact a lot of people spent the summer watching the Olympics.”
She added: “Some of the sports performing best are the ones with the best plans. It’s no accident that cycling is performing really well and sports like hockey are right up there.
“Once we got rid of that awful wet start to the summer, in the three months around the Games there was a bounce in participation.”
Cycling, seen as one of the sports that has most successfully married elite success and growth in participation, has increased the number of people cycling at least once a week by 200,000 over the past year.
“With almost two million people cycling once a week following a summer of unprecedented cycling success, this is our legacy in action,” British Cycling’s chief executive Ian Drake said.
“British Cycling has set new standards in elite sport and, with these latest figures from Sport England, we can celebrate gold-medal results in grassroots participation.”
The largest increase has been among women, with 500,000 taking part in sports such as cycling, netball, running, swimming and going to the gym.
But Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, believes that work is still needed to close the gender gap.
She said: “It’s fantastic to see that more women are being inspired to take up sport and I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the hard work Sport England and the sector more widely have put into improving these figures, particularly in sports such as netball, running and cycling.
“However, these numbers show that there is still a long way to go to close the gender gap in participation.
“There is still a 10 percentage point gap in participation with 41 per cent of men taking part in at least one session of activity a week compared to 31 per cent of women.”
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