January 10 - Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) has spoken of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) plans to encourage participation in sports up to and beyond this year's Olympics and Paralympics after the proposed new UK School Games received a massive injection of cash.

Alongside a panel featuring the Sport and Olympics Minister, Hugh Robertson, chair of UK Sport Baroness Sue Campbell and the chief executive of Sport England, Jennie Price, Hunt admitted that their intention was to build upon the promise Sebastian Coe made following London 2012's Olympic bid triumph in 2005 when he spoke of inspiring a new generation to participate in sport.

The chances of that sporting legacy coming to fruition was given a huge boost today when Sainsbury's pledged a £10 million ($15.5 million/€18.2 million) package to support the new School Games competition over the next four years.

A further £14 million ($22 million/€17 million) from the Department of Health plus a further £8 million ($12.4 million/€9.7 million) from Sport England will extend funding for School Games organisers from two years to four years, up to 2015.

And sponsorship from adidas means that the 1,600 young athletes who take part in the first event scheduled to take place between May 6 and 9, with the final day's events being held in the Olympic Park, will be provided with sports kit.

Hunt is sure that London hosting this year's Olympics and Paralympics will provide fertile breeding ground for Britain to produce its next batch of champions.

After revealing he used to work in his local Sainsbury's, Hunt said: "Seb spoke to me about sitting cross legged in a hall at school, watching the 1968 Olympics, 'and by the time I was back in that classroom', he said, 'I knew what I wanted to be'.

"In 1984, he became the first person ever to win Olympic gold in the 1500 metres twice in a row – an historic moment for British sport.

"Just as historic was what was happening at home at that moment, when a 14-year-old Kelly Holmes watched Seb's win on TV and decided she wanted to be a 1500m Olympic champion.

"And when she won double gold in Athens in 2004, it was 14-year-old Stacey Smith who decided that she wanted to follow in Kelly's footsteps.

"Even now she says she still watches the video of Kelly's wins for inspiration."

Among those athletes who attended today's launch was former badminton player Gail Emms (pictured below right), who won an Olympic silver medal at Athens in 2004, and Andrew Lapthorne (below left), a quad tennis player who, with Peter Norfolk, is ranked number one in doubles and one of Britain's leading hopes for a medal in the Paralympics later this year.

Hunt said: "The Olympic inspiration is not just for future champions.

"For every Seb, Kelly or Stacey, there are thousands more young people who can be inspired into sport for the sheer pleasure of taking part.

"When we talk about the once in a generation opportunity of hosting a Games at home, this is what we mean: a priceless chance to catch young people at the crucial moment and set them on the path to sport, for life.

"This is what Seb recognised when we promised we would use the Games to inspire a generation.

"As we enter our Olympic year, this is the moment that we need to make good on that promise, and secure the sporting legacy of 2012."

By Declan Warrington

Source: www.insidethegames.biz


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