London 2012 – One Year On

On the first anniversary of Team GB’s first gold medal of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we take a look at rowing’s exceptional growth over the past 12 months…

One year on from the most successful Olympic Games in the history of British rowing, the nation’s focus remains firmly fixed on one of the key tenets of London 2012 – the Olympic legacy.

When the women’s pair of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning started an unprecedented gold rush for Team GB on August 1st 2012, the worldwide enthusiasm for rowing was obvious:

  • 33,000 Club Finder searches on the British Rowing website
  • “#Rowing” one of the top trends worldwide on Twitter
  • Clubs across the country inundated with Learn to Row applicants.

But, 12 months later, how has the nation’s appetite for rowing changed after London’s iconic Games, and how is the legacy shaping up?

According to British Rowing’s latest statistics, rowing is in excellent shape – with notable increases at junior and university level, and unprecedented growth in the number of women taking part in the sport.

In the year since rowing secured GB’s first medal of the Games, some 11,500 people have signed up for their first ever British Rowing membership – 5,500 (48 per cent) of whom are female.

Four years ago, women accounted for just 37 per cent of British Rowing’s overall members. As of April this year, women represented 42 per cent – a clear indication of the sport becoming increasingly accessible and attractive to women.

This trend was perfectly illustrated by the entry to 2013 Women’s Head of the River Race – one of the Blue Riband events of the head racing season – in March, which attracted a record 320 crews.

Significantly, one third of the near-3,000 rowers and coxes competing were members of novice crews, and new to the sport.

As women’s rowing has continued to go from strength to strength in the year since London 2012, so too has rowing for young people – ostensibly the generation that the Games were aiming to inspire.

Half of the 11,500 brand new British Rowing members are aged under-18, and roughly 8,500 are students. Now, approximately 55 per cent of British Rowing members are younger than 22, and 65 per cent are less than 28 years old.

London 2012 helped to generate extraordinary levels of interest in sport, but the latest participation figures in rowing are no accident. Hugely successful programmes such as Explore Rowing and our facilities programme helped to ensure that clubs nationwide were in the best possible shape to cope with increased demand.

British Rowing’s investment in clubs in the four years leading up to London 2012 saw £2.4m of public funding (via Sport England) delivered directly into club infrastructure, with £1.8m invested in facilities and £0.6m on boats. This helped to attract a further £3.6m in partnership funding to support our clubs.

Rosemary Napp, Development Director; “Our challenge as the official National Governing Body of the sport lies in harnessing all this enthusiasm and converting individual experiences, both on the water and on indoor rowing machines, into regular participation. We have introduced several programmes to help us achieve this including: ‘Explore Rowing’ aimed at newcomers and lapsed rowers, and ‘Rowability’ for those with a disability keen to try the sport.”

In addition to a rise in participation numbers, British Rowing is also enjoying a new and growing demand for volunteer roles, as interest in the summer’s events has demonstrated.

“At London 2012, the Games Makers did a superb job of raising the profile of volunteering and demonstrating how enjoyable it can be to be a part of sports’ delivery” added Napp.  “In June this year we hosted the Samsung World Rowing Cup at Eton Dorney and received more than 1,000 applications from people keen to help out. A third of these were completely new to volunteering and a further third had volunteered at the Olympic Games and were keen to repeat their experience. Growth of the volunteer network is absolutely vital to sustaining the growth and development of sport in this country.”

In the one year since Glover and Stanning’s historic gold medal at Eton Dorney, rowing in the UK has gone from strength to strength. British Rowing membership topped 30,000 for the first time in October 2012, and continues to grow – exceeding 32,000 in June this year.

“It’s been a completely amazing year for me, but it’s been really special to think that our gold medal a year ago today resulted in literally thousands of people rushing off to find a rowing club,” added Helen Glover.

“I’ve been told that nearly half the new people who signed up to row since the Olympics are under 18, and nearly half are women. I can’t honestly say that Heather and I were thinking much about the legacy when we were preparing for our race, but the whole team has been bowled over by the way we have inspired people to have a go for themselves.”

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