Fifty thousand reasons to be cheerful

Posted by Ed Douglas on 08/08/2012
Be happy: join our 75,000 members

While Bradley Wiggins was powering his way round London and into the record books last week, the BMC was celebrating a landmark of its own. On 1 August our latest membership figures were posted and there was a nice surprise for our membership team. For the first time in its history, the BMC has over 50,000 individual members.

Taken together with our club members, the BMC’s total membership is now nudging towards 75,000. In the last couple of years, the number has remained steady after a period of steady growth, hardly surprising given the continuing economic gloom.

Many similar organisations have actually seen a fall in membership since the near-collapse of the banking sector and the credit crunch that followed. But this year, despite all the gloom, we’ve moved forward again.

A growing membership means we have more clout in negotiating access and campaigning on the issues that matter. It’s also evidence that climbing and hill walking continue to grow as more people discover the joys and challenges of an outdoor life.

Another sporting body that is bucking the trend is British Cycling, which is reaping the rewards of a masterful Olympic strategy and the Tour de France success of the man with the sideburns. Since Wiggins crossed the line in Paris on 22 July, more than a thousand new members joined British Cycling, although this has only pushed total membership past the 50,000 mark, a figure the BMC reached in the late 1990s.

Yet there are lessons to be learned here for the BMC, as climbing bids for inclusion in the all-conquering Olympics. 

The theoretical event would involve 30 men and 30 women over two days, with athletes qualifying via world championships, continental events, world youth championships and world rankings.

Should the International Olympic Committee give climbing the nod, then the financing of competition climbing and team members will undoubtedly be transformed. One thing that might sway the IOC’s opinion in favour is the fact that climbing fans don’t just sit on a couch watching their heroes on a television screen. They participate.

There’s lots of debate in the media about the legacy of the Olympics, about our medal-winners inspiring the next generation. No doubt a handful of youngsters watching their heroes will one day win medals of their own. But sport isn’t just for the elite; it’s for everyone. That’s why climbing and hill walking are so important; people love being out there. And that’s why keeping the hills and crags open to us all will always be one of the BMC’s core tasks.
 



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