A tale of two legacies

Angela BillinghamAngela Billingham on why the spectacle of the Olympics must do more for school sport

The day we heard the words “and the 2012 Olympic Games will be held in the city of London”, we jumped for joy and our lives were changed.

Since then we have witnessed the outstanding efforts of those whose task it was to deliver the Games. The outcome is simply remarkable and we can be proud of what they have achieved. We watched the Olympic village taking shape and saw the regeneration and transformation of one of the poorest area of London.

That first legacy has been achieved. It will be with us forever.

But at the time of the bid, a second legacy was promised – not in bricks and mortar but in our lifestyle. It was promised that the Games would be an inspiration for a whole generation, especially young people, to be involved in sport, either as a participant or a volunteer.

That sporting lifestyle could transform us, better our health and better our happiness.

I fear legacy has yet to be guaranteed. During the Games, amazing athletes will inspire us, but we, in turn, have to provide the framework to enable everyone to emulate those heroes and heroines.

My heart sinks when I look at the plans of Michael Gove for the place of sport in our state primary schools. He has pushed sport to the margins in their curriculums and put our sports future in jeopardy. Unless sport begins at grassroots, it does not flourish.

In just a few days time we will witness amazing performances from competitors at the peak of their ability. We will know that years of dedication will produce athletes in physical perfection. Champions will become household names, Olympians in every sense of the word. Already, support for the Olympic Torch shows the public’s excitement and the spirit of the Games is high. Doubtless there will be glitches but triumphs will outweigh any problems. Let’s enjoy and delight at the Olympic project.

A few weeks after the awarding of the games to London, I made a speech in the Lords expressing delight and enthusiasm for the prospect. I told a very sceptical group of fellow Peers that I especially looked forward to the Olympic Tennis event to be held at Wimbledon. Further, I said, I had seen a very young and talented teenager who I believed was a future champion. I went further: I said I had the wonderful vision of this rookie young Scot standing on the winner’s rostrum holding aloft the Olympic gold medal. Not many believed me!

Well today, I am more convinced, he improves daily and his dedication has brought him to the top of his game. Success is within his grasp. So let’s hear it from the red leather benches – come on Andy: we’re rooting for you.

At last the sun is shining, may it shine on everyone involved in the London Games and bring success and happiness to Team GB.

Baroness Angela Billingham is Labour’s Shadow Minister for Sports in the Lords and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Tennis Group

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