Gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent has called for greater support for Lancashire’s young athletes to be the greatest legacy of this summer’s Olympics.
The four-times Olympic champion rower said he believed Great Britain would go into the next Games in four years time with one of the world’s elite group of sportsmen and said the “real challenge” would be to maintain this for the Games in 2020.
He said there needed to be support to protect funding to support the nation’s elite sports at grassroots level including supporting sports clubs in Lancashire.
The rower was in the county on Wednesday to open the new luxury spa at Stanley House hotel in Mellor, near Preston.
The 41-year-old said: “We have to make sure sport is a part of everyone’s growing up which was the case in my own generation, but has been under threat for the past two decades.
“Facilities are an important part of that and we have to make sure it is integrated into Government-backed sports initiatives, but facilities are not the only thing.
“There are areas of Lancashire which are deprived but there are also many areas for kids to go outside and get play sport.
“The Games has given us that appetite for sport again, we need to ensure that carries on.”
Sir Matthew warned that without investment in the British sporting system, including its elite coaches, there was a risk of them being poached by other nations.
He said: “The home Olympics has drawn a lot of the world’s leading coaches (to Britain) and we are not careful emerging nations like Brazil, China and India will say we are going to do more and these people will drift out again.
“It is important we hang onto them.”
The Olympian officially opened the new multi-million pound spa at the Ribble Valley hotel on Wednesday.
Director Simon Glassbrook, part of the Walker family which owns the hotel, said he wanted the facilities to become “a beacon” to attract more visitors to Lancashire’s countryside.