BRITAIN'S most successful female swimmer to date, Sharron Davies MBE, told the Bulletin yesterday that she hopes the London Olympics in 2012 will give British sport the kick up the arse it needs.
Davies, in Majorca with her family to help Pirates Adventure raise over 80'000 pounds for Great Ormond Street Hospital at tonight's charity premiere, said that, while the Olympics are going to be good for London, British sport needs the games even more.
However, Davies, now a successful television presenter with the BBC, warned that preparations appear to be somewhat sluggish and that the British Olympic organisers need to get their fingers out.
The Beijing games are only a year away and then it's London and apart from getting the facilities ready on time, the athletes need to start making use of the new proposed facilities in order to start training for the London games.
The new swimming pools, athletics tracks, velodromes etc. are going to be little use to the British team if they are not going to ready until just six months before the games, she said.
We need the facilities now. Britain's got the talent it has not got the facilities, she added.
I think the Beijing Games will be the catalyst and that is when we will finally realise it is us next and we've only got four years, she added.
Training was a different ball game for Davies when she started seriously swimming at the age of eight.
At the age of eleven she set a record by swimming for the British team and in 1976, aged only 13, she represented Britain at the Montreal Olympics.
She went on to win two gold medals at the Commonwealth games and a silver in 1980 Olympics in Moscow where she came second to the legendary German swimmer Petra Scheider.
At the age of 18, she decided to hand up her swim suit to concentrate on her television career and modelling but nine years later she slipped back into her swimming costume and leapt back into the pool. She won two more Commonwealth medals in 1990 and finally put her swim suit away to dry in 1994 by which point she had been British champion on twenty occasions and had broken 200 British swimming records and 5 World Masters records.
Her last Olympics games were in Barcelona and she admitted yesterday that she regrets that the London Games has not come earlier in her career.
Performing in front of your home crowd is so positive for the athletes, the support from the crowd is massive and can make all the difference.
Swimming in front of a home crowd is worth a 10th of a second and that could mean gold, she said.
Davies is confident the British team will do well at the London Games, she claims that, at the moment, there are at least five medal possibilities and the team should pick up three.
However, she also believes that the games will breathe some new life into British sport and society.
There was quite a lot of apathy in general in the 70*s and 80*s with all that stuff about the importance of participating instead of winning.
There's nothing wrong with winning, we're tought it at school and it helps when dealing with defeat or disappointment in life, it makes you want to train harder, do better next time. Everyone wants to win, for example, when they go for their first job interview, its natural and healthy.
Now British life and sport is getting its competitive edge back but there is still a lot of work to be done, she said.
Apart from being heavily involved with helping disabled children enjoy life through sport and The Sports Aid Foundation, she has also been advising McDonalds on their healthy and organic food policies and maintains that the battle to beat child obesity and get children to lead healthier lives has to start at home. I grew up on fish and chips, but you can't eat the same food everyday without a balanced diet of vegetables and fruit and regular exercise. The problem in Britain is that children are getting less physical education in schools, school playing fields have all but disappeared, PE teachers will not work out of school hours and children have different interests and attractions today like computers, PPS's, Nintendoes, mobiles and parents no longer make them walk to school. All mine do, whether it is raining or not, and I guess they see us leading healthy lives so it rubs off on them. The trouble is with a couch potato generation of parents, what example are they setting their kids. Parents are primarily responsible but so too are the government and schools. Everybody needs to get involved with beating obesity and breeding a healthier generation. I hope that the London Games will encourage people, especially kids, to take up sport. There were so many kids in Trafalgar Square on the day London won its bid and they all seemed so excited, there was a great buzz which I hope will vibrate across the country during the games and spark people to get off their backsides, change their lifestyle and get fit, she said yesterday. The games may well be being held in London, the International Olympic Committee were quite clear about nowhere else in the UK having a chance of winning.
But really the whole country stands to benefit, she added.