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Volume 488: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

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.