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House of Lords Hansard
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Olympic and Paralympic Games 2021
28 April 2020
Volume 803

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to extend funding to ensure the continuation of existing training and racing programmes for potential Olympic and Paralympic athletes until the 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

The Question was considered in a Virtual Proceeding via video call.

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We continue to work with UK Sport and sports bodies to support our athletes and sports in the run-up to the Tokyo Games in 2021. We want the Tokyo Games to be a resounding success and will work alongside everyone involved to help achieve this. The forthcoming spending review will address the budget needs to do this beyond the current funding cycle.

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My Lords, the Answer given will be welcomed by the world of British Olympic sport. Will my noble friend also take into account the wider concerns of some British Olympic and Paralympic sports governing bodies, which, like the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association, are facing serious financial loss, and the need to reassure them on the availability of funding for their programmes to prepare the very best possible British teams for Tokyo?

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I thank my noble friend for his question. We are working closely across the sector to understand the impact of Covid-19 on income generation. My colleague the Minister for Sport is involved in this on a daily basis.

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My Lords, I am sure the Minister will agree that the London 2012 Olympics were one of Britain’s greatest success stories of the last decade. We recall that pride in our NHS was, very presciently, the theme of the opening ceremony choreographed by Danny Boyle. Will she encourage her department to work with the Japanese organising committee and the IOC to ensure that Tokyo 2021 celebrates the restoration of public health worldwide and recognises the generosity of athletes in all sports everywhere, such as the runners in Sunday’s virtual London marathon, who are making such a difference in the present emergency?

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The noble Lord makes a very important point. I think there is a strong feeling that Tokyo in 2021 will do exactly as he suggests. It will be a great moment to bring our nation and the world together in celebration of the restoration of health, and I share his gratitude to everyone who is going above and beyond, in many different ways, to address the current situation.

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Does the Minister agree that the success story of British sport in the last couple of decades has been based on certainty and funding? Will she give a guarantee that all programmes, not only the Olympics, will at least have certainty about what they are going to receive so that they can plan properly? The worst thing that could happen is for somebody to have their funding cut or reduced half-way through.

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I absolutely agree with the noble Lord that certainty in funding has been critical to our sporting success. As I mentioned earlier, we are working with all sporting bodies to understand the particular pressures within their sport and what we can do to support them.

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Live sport is a lifeline for many people as spectators, but it is also massively important for giving athletes competition opportunities. I read with interest that the ECB has been nominated as the organisation to lead on opening sports events. What process was undertaken to get to that stage, and what other organisations are being talked to? We do not want to rush opening live sport, but for athletes to qualify for next year they have to have a competition opportunity.

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The noble Baroness is quite right. No process was undertaken and no formal appointment has been made. Rather, an offer was received at a working level from the ECB relaying some thoughts from the sector. This was warmly welcomed. There is real emphasis on ensuring that this is a hugely collegiate effort to bring back sport, whether competition or training. Ministers and officials are continuing to work with the full range of sporting bodies.

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Lord Griffiths of Burry Port? Lord Campbell of Pittenweem.

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Does the Minister appreciate that not everyone can win medals and that for many competitors the mere fact of selection for the British Olympic team is the high point of their sporting careers? Will support be available for them, not just for those identified as likely medal winners?

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The decisions about where the funding allocation goes are entirely for UK Sport to take, and it takes a number of criteria into account in making those decisions.

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My Lords, indoor climbing is one of the new sports for the Tokyo Olympics where we have a big chance of success in winning medals. Are the Government in close contact with the governing body so that, as we move forward into the summer, those who require access to specialist equipment will have their considerations borne in mind when decisions are made?

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As I mentioned earlier, my noble friend the Minister for Sport is working across the full range of sports to make sure that specific needs are taken into account, but I will share the noble Lord’s specific concerns with my honourable friend.

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Given the possibility of greater social contact facilitated by testing and tracing, will the Minister talk to her colleagues about how Paralympians, both with their trainer and, in the case of blind people, with those who, for instance, run with them, would be facilitated in coming together rapidly as the situation improves, to be able to train in a way that makes their participation possible next year?

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The noble Lord makes a very good point, which I will raise with my honourable friend. Obviously, all decisions that are taken on the resumption of training or participation will be entirely consistent with public health guidelines, but the interests of Paralympians are incredibly important within this.

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My Lords, competitive sport can bind the nation together. However, does government recognise that the essential training and preparation before an event go hand in hand with the event itself? While the equestrian sport, for example, features high up in past medal tables, and is strong in terms of gender and disability equality, will government reflect that, along with other similar sports, it attracts significantly less funding support at the expense of more media-exposed sports such as track and field?

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The noble Lord is right about training and preparation. We recognise the unique challenges in equestrian sports with regard to maintaining grounds and keeping horses fit for competition. However, we are working with UK Sport to ensure that the right funding and support is there so that we can have a speedy return of all sports.

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My Lords, I fear that the time allowed for this question has elapsed; I apologise to the two Members who were unable to get in. We now move to the second Oral Question, from Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town.