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Olympics

Volume 488: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

The Minister for the Olympics was asked—

International Inspiration Programme

1. What role the International Inspiration programme will play in delivering the London 2012 Olympics programme objective to promote sport excellence and participation in other countries. (259256)

International Inspiration is a promise that we made in Singapore when we won the right to host the 2012 games. The purpose of the programme is to ensure that a generation of young people are inspired through sport in developing countries around the world. The programme is already operating in five countries. Soon that number will be eight and it will increase. I take this opportunity to thank our partners in the programme—the British Council, UNICEF, the premier league, UK Sport and the Department for International Development—for their contributions.

I was recently in Zambia, where I visited a boys school in Lusaka which is part of the International Inspiration programme. We were impressed on that visit to see just how engaged the young people were in sport. One of the things that particularly impressed me was the fact that children with disabilities in the school were as involved as the more able bodied children. Is that part of the International Inspiration programme, and what can we do to support it?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question and for her visit to the programme in Lusaka. I can assure her that in International Inspiration right across the world, disabled children are equal participants with children who do not have disabilities. Given that the focus of the Zambia programme is the reduction of HIV/AIDS, I hope my hon. Friend may look at the opportunities for twinning between organisations and schools in her constituency and the International Inspiration programme.

Is the Minister aware that those of us who remember the 1948 games—the last London Olympics—which were run on a shoestring, remember them because they were an international inspiration programme? Sport was first, second and last, and money was very much further down the list. There is a fear that the London Olympics are so costly and the focus is so much on money that sport will take a back seat.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that our objective is to ensure that these are the greatest Olympic games ever, as a sporting event, a cultural event and a paralympic event. Of course, it is also important to make sure that the regeneration objectives in east London are met. Of every pound being spent on developing the Olympic park, 75p is being spent on regeneration. The games will be good value for money, a great national party and an opportunity to celebrate the success of our athletes and para-athletes.

Legacy (Essex)

2. What legacy effect she expects the holding of London 2012 Olympics events in Essex to have on levels of participation in sport in Essex. (259257)

The Government have the big ambition of making sure that the opportunity of the Olympics inspires 2 million people to be more active by 2012. In the case of 1 million of those, that will be through sport. Our investments are already making a difference in Essex, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, with an increase in participation between 2005 and 2007-08 that is ahead of the national increase in participation. In addition, Essex will have the opportunity to motivate its residents by using the significant hosting role of the Olympic mountain biking event at Hadleigh Farm as a way of making sure that even more people get active.

There is growing concern in my constituency that there will not be much of a legacy in Chelmsford. Will the Minister come to my constituency so that she can explain to my constituents what legacy the 2012 Olympics will be in Chelmsford?

The legacy can be achieved in several ways. First, there is the significant number—more than 60—of training camps in the eastern region; secondly, the hon. Gentleman can make sure that he encourages businesses of all sizes in Chelmsford to bid for the contracts that will be let through the CompeteFor network as part of the Olympics. Furthermore, his constituents could put themselves forward as volunteers, and it could be ensured that the tourism benefits are maximised. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could also persuade Essex county council to be rather more enthusiastic about free swimming than it has been to date.

Will the Minister care to deny the scurrilous rumours that, to encourage the people of Essex to be more involved, it is intended that the sports of putting the medallion and throwing the white high heels should be included?

Will the Minister acknowledge that, apart from the free swimming initiative in which many local authorities in Essex have chosen not to participate, there are very few up-and-running projects that will secure people’s active participation in exercise? Furthermore, the lack of a logo that could be used to publicise events linked to the Olympics remains a hindrance. Have we started early or left it too late to meet the target of 2 million extra active people by 2012?

I absolutely do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s pessimistic view. As he will know, the Inspire mark can be earned by organisations that have demonstrably achieved in relation to Olympic goals; he might like to encourage the sports clubs in his constituency to do that. He could also take the time and trouble to talk to the governing bodies across the board about the generally impressive efforts that they are making, not just to see their sportsmen and women compete and succeed at the highest level, but to get more and more people participating in sport—rowing, cycling, sailing, athletics; I could go on. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could focus his questions on the basis of a knowledge and understanding of what is actually going on, rather than promoting this climate of pessimism.

Essex is one of the counties that has been making representations about the cost of policing venues external to London. I appreciate why the Department has not been able to answer questions on the issue until now, but given that the security plan was published at the end of last week, is the Minister now in a position to confirm whether the £600 million inside the main Olympic budget earmarked for security will cover the cost of policing venues external to London?

As we made clear last week when the Home Office published the security plan, it is our expectation that the funds reserved for security—£600 million plus an allowance for contingency, as the hon. Gentleman knows—will be sufficient. However, the hon. Gentleman has received a briefing on the issue; for reasons that he will understand, the detailed costing of individual elements of the security programme will be developed over time, taking full account of the threat level at the appropriate time.

Legacy

3. What progress has been made on plans for the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic games; and if she will make a statement. (259258)

We are making very good progress on the implementation of plans for the legacy of the London 2012 games. We recently provided Parliament with an update on the progress and future plans in the annual report on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. That was published on 5 February. The nature of the priorities for the Olympic legacy will vary across the regions of the UK, and it is important that those regional preferences are properly reflected. As I said, the Government have the big ambition of using the motivational power of the Olympics to inspire 2 million more people to be active by 2012, 1 million of them through sport.

I totally agree with my right hon. Friend’s sentiments. Will she ensure that everything possible is done to support groups such as West Cheshire athletic club, which has an Olympic-standard track along with associated facilities? It is vital that the hard work done by volunteers and organisers to develop the club and support new young athletes is protected well after 2012.

I thank my hon. Friend and recognise the part that he has played in getting that excellent facility for his constituents. I understand that there is some anxiety about the consequence of local government reorganisation. I hope that the new authority will honour all the commitments that have already been given, especially in recognition of the important role that local authorities up and down the country have to play in ensuring that 2 million more people are physically active and taking part in sport.

The Minister will know that research from the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation has shown that fewer women than men are involved in sport at all levels, whether as participants, coaches or officials. What plans does she have to use the London 2012 Olympics to ensure that the legacy tackles the problem of women’s under-participation in sport?

That can be done in very many ways, starting with the school sport programme, where ways of engaging girls, in particular, are very much a focus, using dance, aerobics and so forth—the kinds of physical activity that are more likely to be attractive to girls. We must then seek to address the other barriers to girls’ participation, whether they are to do with gender, ethnicity or religion. We must then ensure, at the very top of sport, that women have equal chances with men—and, in some cases, men have equal chances with women—to take part in Olympic events. Let us take cycling as an example: Victoria Pendleton should have the opportunity to compete in as many events where she has the potential to win a gold medal as possible, as should male colleagues.

Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the south-west region may not be as successful as other regions in attracting Olympic sports? Will she therefore agree to meet me to discuss the legacy and how we can improve that for the south-west?

I would be absolutely delighted to meet my hon. Friend. I hope that she is reassured by the excellent work that is being done by the nations and regions group in the south-west through the marketing of training camps, the promotion of participating and volunteering. That will ensure that the economic benefits flow to the south-west, as they should. However, I would be delighted to meet her to ensure that even more is achieved.