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Olympic Organizers Missing 'Big Idea' to Inspire Youth?

Using the allure of the Olympics to get more children to play sports is a top target of the London 2012 Olympic Games organizers, but figures from a UK government agency show the number of 16- to 19-year olds playing sports at least three times a week has fallen sharply.

The man running near the river
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The report by Sport England, a government agency responsible for community sports, said sports such as running, table tennis and boxing are still popular, but noted decreasing participation in other major sports such as swimming and tennis.

Some 14.7 million adults are playing sports at least once a week, the report said.

Among people who are playing less than they were previously, almost a third said this was due to economic factors such as cost or a lack of time due to work commitments.

“There are lots of initiatives, but perhaps we’re missing the big idea that will really transform this,”Andy Hunt, CEO of the British Olympic Association, told CNBC on Friday.

“From a sports participation legacy (point of view), we haven’t yet seen any evidence,” he said.

He added, however, that he expects to see a significant increase in young people playing sports after the Games.

“We don’t see necessarily perhaps the involvement we’d like to see in track and field,” Hunt said.

That may be due to the lack of competitive track and field competition in schools, according to Hunt.

Olympic organizers have come under attack for doubling the 41 millon pound ($64 million) budget for the opening and closing ceremonies for both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games, money which some say should go toward grassroots sports development.

But Hunt said the ceremonies were an opportunity to showcase British culture and argued it would have been hard to portray the nation the way organizers want to with the initial £41 million budget.

“If we think of that in the UK Plc perspective, could we really put on in effect one of the biggest shows on earth?” he asked.

"For that level of money, it would have been really really tough. None of us believe we’re going…to copy what was done in Beijing…but we need to put on an amazing show, " he said. "The world is going to be watching us.”