Sport is a unifying force for good worldwide and can inspire excellence as well as aspiration among those that live with poverty and despair, the UK Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP, said last night.
Speaking on the eve of the official opening of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s (CPA) 57th annual conference, Mr Robertson said sport is something that the Commonwealth family of nations “does really, really well”.
He said the arrival of hundreds of MPs to the British capital this week was particularly timely as it would coincide with celebrations to mark the one-year countdown to London’s 2012 Olympic Games.
Mr Robertson made his comments before a dinner hosted by Rt Hon. Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, chair of the UK Branch of the CPA. He told guest MPs that he had been lucky enough to see the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last year:
"They were a fantastic games and brought home to me that sport is something the Commonwealth does really, really well. We are lucky enough to have picked up the 2014 games in Glasgow and I was reflecting only a month or so ago at the annual IOC conference on sport for peace and development just how much work can be done in that field,” he said.
"At last count, the international inspiration program off the back of the 2012 games has touched 11 million young people in 17 different countries, many of them in the Commonwealth. I was able, too, to point to the work being done in Bangladesh where 80,000 children were taught to swim or the Mozambique series in which many young sports leaders were trained through sports inspiration program. These are just a few examples of the wonderful things done through sport…enjoy the conference and keep your eyes on the TV at Lords,” he said.
Sir Alan welcomed his visitors and told guests that the sporting theme was appropriate not only because London would host the Olympics but because of the ability for sport to bring together large and small nations – just as the CPA conference would do this week.
"We like to think the Commonwealth unites people in their work and parliamentarians from small states and provinces and major countries come together in the same way the Commonwealth Games are known as the friendly games,” he said.
"I couldn’t help but thinking that this was particularly timely today as Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man won the green jersey in the Tour de France and Cadel Evans took the yellow jersey for Australia."
Sir Alan also welcomed four distinguished athletes to the dinner including English champion netballer, Karen Atkinson, Steve Brown, wheelchair rugby player who is hoping to play in the 2012 Paralympics, Graham Edmunds the gold medal winning British paralympist swimmer and Chris Symonds, the UK-based triathlete who competes for Ghana.