Sunderland sports groups told funding will stop just days after the Olympics

Echo reporter Alison Goulding (second from left) gets some training from the City Council team which is encouraging Nordic walking here on Wearside. Pictured with Alison are (from left) Jim Morton, Lindsey Robson  and Tracey Enguita.
Echo reporter Alison Goulding (second from left) gets some training from the City Council team which is encouraging Nordic walking here on Wearside. Pictured with Alison are (from left) Jim Morton, Lindsey Robson and Tracey Enguita.
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A SPORTS group has been left devastated after hearing its funding would stop – just days after the Olympics ended.

While athletes, celebrities and politicians were nationally calling for more to be done to establish a legacy on the back of Team GB’s London 2012 success, Wearsiders were being told their events were ending.

The Nordic walking group and cycling group are run by the city council, as part of the three-year Active Sunderland programme.

They were financially backed by Sport England, from its Community Investment Fund, but the funding was time-limited and will finish at the end of the month.

The cash-strapped council is now considering whether or not to continue the programmes without the backing of Sport England.

Members of the walking group, who meet at Herrington Country Park, are angry at hearing funding would run out.

In a letter to the authority, spokeswoman Susan Williams said: “The news was particularly disappointing as it was delivered at the end of the Olympics, on the day that the Prime Minister pledged to reintroduce competitive sport into schools and the rhetoric in society was all about health and wellbeing.”

She highlighted a blog by council leader Paul Watson, saying he talks ‘about the Olympics and how they inspired us to be more active’.

“The juxtaposition of this and the closure of the walking programme is as laughable as it is depressing.

“Our group is very beneficial to us, as we all have health issues of one kind or another, which have improved since we started walking.

“These include Crohn’s disease, depression, stress-related conditions, asthma, bronchitis, osteoporosis and arthritis.”

Fellow group member Tania Le Marinel, from Washington, said: “It’s been such a successful scheme and so many of us enjoy it.

“We’ve had such success in the Olympics with cycling that people are going to want to know where they can do cycling in Sunderland. It seems like incredibly bad timing.”

Nordic walking uses special poles which help work upper body muscles and burn more calories than regular walking. Members of the club pay £2 a week.

Tania added: “I’d just like the council to take a fresh look at this.

“It’s improving physical fitness and it’s giving exercise to people who may not do it otherwise. These are preventative measures that will help people.

“This should not be coming to an end, not now when we’ve just had the Olympics and people are interested in sport.”

Councillor John Kelly, cabinet member for public health, wellness and culture, said: “We are now looking to build on this programme and the three-year £300,000 Active Sunderland project, which was supported by Sport England, to create a legacy within Sunderland.

“We are continuing to support as many sporting activities as we can, in what are very difficult financial circumstances.”

Figures show that more people in the North East are taking part in sport since London won the Olympic bid in 2005.

Sport England’s Active People Survey said 732,500 people were now participating in one session of sport a week, compared to 682,200 in 2005.

However, in 2005 in Sunderland 32 per cent of adults were doing at least 30 minutes a week of moderate intensity sport, but that has fallen to about 30 per cent.

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