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Paralympic Games

Volume 496: debated on Monday 20 July 2009

We are determined to ensure that there is full equivalence between the Paralympics and the summer games and that the Paralympics are fully integrated into the organising committee’s plans, with a cross-Government Paralympic legacy plan, which will identify how we are going to use the power of the Paralympics to increase opportunities for disabled people more widely.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a leavers assembly at Ashbridge school in my constituency, at which a presentation was made by Shelly Woods from Blackpool. Shelly won a silver medal and a bronze medal at the Beijing Paralympics and made a truly inspirational presentation. What opportunities will exist to celebrate the Paralympics, as well as the Olympics, in the forthcoming open weekend?

I thank my hon. Friend and join him in congratulating Shelly on her contribution. The forthcoming open weekend, which will mark three years to go until the opening of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, will be marked across the country. Some 750 events are already registered, and I encourage hon. Members from all parts of the House to take part. In the north-west, my hon. Friend can go to one of many events, which include the academy cup at Greenbank sports academy and many others besides. The open weekend will be a great moment to celebrate achievements so far, and Olympic and Paralympic sports will both feature.

This weekend a great Olympian became the world boxing champion. Amir Khan is a great role model for young people in this country, yet small boxing clubs where people like him will come from in future are struggling. I wonder whether the Minister or the sports Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), would like to visit a new boxing club in my constituency and see not only the great young people coming forward, but the financial problems that they face.

I am sure that the House will want to congratulate Amir Khan. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about his dedication to providing leadership to young men—and, indeed, young women—right across the country as they take up boxing. As my hon. Friend the sports Minister has pointed out, investment is going into boxing clubs because of Amir Khan’s advocacy and the evident benefits to young people.

What progress is being made on the recruitment of thousands of volunteers from right across the United Kingdom to ensure that the Paralympics and the Olympics in 2012 are the outstanding success that we all want them to be?

The plans for volunteer recruitment will be announced next year and recruitment will start shortly thereafter. However, the scale of public enthusiasm for the forthcoming Olympics can be measured by the fact that although some 70,000 volunteers will be recruited by the organising committee, more than 250,000 people have already registered their interest. We in Government are absolutely determined to ensure that all volunteers who offer themselves for the games have an opportunity to get involved in their community in one way or another.