Greg Rutherford says he has been inspired to help improve the lives of families and kids in lockdown by Marcus Rashford.
The London 2012 Olympic champion is fronting a Sport England campaign to tackle a drop in children’s activity levels during the pandemic.
“We’re nearly a year into this now and fewer kids are active,” said the long jump legend. “As a dad of two, with one on the way, I’m really concerned about getting kids moving.”
Rutherford’s involvement comes at a time when footballer turned food poverty campaigner Rashford is being hailed as a saviour to millions.
“Rashy is an absolute hero,” he said. “He’s changing people’s thought processes and getting things done.
“My profile is miniscule compared to his but when I see someone so young having such an impact it totally inspires me.
“For him it’s not enough to score goals, it’s about effecting change. I'm a big United fan but what team you support is irrelevant. We all support what he is doing.”
Figures released by Sport England show the number of physically active children and young people fell significantly during the 2019/20 academic year in England.
Fewer than half took part in sport or physical activity for an average of 60 minutes a day as recommended by the government’s chief medical officer, with 2.3 million falling short of the 30-minute mark.
Rutherford said: “We need to make sure kids don’t switch off to sport, that we don’t have a situation where the next Marcus Rashford or Dina Asher-Smith is lost.”
Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of Sport England, describes the pandemic as the “biggest wake-up call in a generation” for why being fit and healthy matters to general physical and mental well-being.
Rutherford added: “My message is that you don’t have to train like an Olympian to be fit and healthy. Just moving and being active can massively benefit you.”
Those who are training in the hope of becoming Olympians in Tokyo will have been encouraged to hear British Olympic Association chairman Sir Hugh Robertson say he was "very optimistic" the Games would take place.
But wheelchair tennis star Gordon Reid, preparing for the Australian Open in Melbourne where dozens of players are having to quarantine for a fortnight in hotel rooms, is less sure.
"It's been really eye-opening here to see and hear the amount of logistical challenges and the scale of trying to organise just a tennis event in the current situation," he said.
"You've got to multiply that by a thousand when it comes to the Olympics and Paralympics because they are on another scale.
“I've been speaking to Shingo Kunieda, one of the Japanese tennis players who lives in Tokyo, and he told me he thinks there's a 50 per cent chance the Games don't go ahead now.”
Should it again be called-off Rutherford proposes pushing it back two years and for Tokyo and Paris to host back-to-back Games in 2023 and 2024.
That is easier said than done as the Olympic village is supposed to be repurposed after this year.
Rutherford said: “Preparations for 2024 are already going ahead and 2020 was pretty much ready to go,” he said. “I think athletes in their prime would absolutely love back-to-back Olympics.”
Greg Rutherford has teamed up with Sport England to help families stay active in lockdown. For guidance and ideas on how to keep your kids active during the pandemic, visit www.sportengland.org/jointhemovement.
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