Last week, my team attended the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as a guest of the Youth Sport Trust. You can read more about why the Commonwealth Games are such a great opportunity to inspire young people here.
I am passionate about using sport and active play to benefit children’s physical wellbeing and reduce child obesity. After all, less than half of young people met the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of an hour of physical activity every day last year so there is much more to be done on this front.
Events like the Commonwealth Games can help address that in two ways. Firstly, the Games are a powerful way to promote the joy of sport to children and to showcase how far their dreams can take them. A key issue for take-up of sport among children is inclusion, so it’s exciting that Birmingham 2022 has been the biggest integrated para-sports of any Commonwealth Games and has been the first major event to award more medals to women than men. Secondly, the legacy of the Games means investment in high-quality facilities that local children can use, as well as £6.5 million from Birmingham 2022 and £35 million from Sport England to expand sport to new audiences, including children around the country.
My team were able to celebrate the successes of the School Games programme at its awards ceremony in Birmingham. Delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, with funding from Sport England, National Lottery and the Department of Health and Social Care, School Games works with 18,800 schools around the country to inspire children to be physically active for life through positive experiences of daily activity and competition.
A key part of the event was a delegation of children from Prince Albert High School, who provided a live demonstration of their holiday activity camps and how local schools were getting involved in the Games. Presenting awards were the Minister for Sport, Nigel Huddleston MP, and Tim Hollingsworth of Sport England, who both spoke about using the legacy of the Games to help more young people participate in sport.
My office was lucky enough to attend a women’s netball game between Barbados and Scotland, and it was clear that children watching were so inspired by being at the games. Children’s passion about sport came through strongly in The Big Ask, the largest-ever survey of children that I conducted last year:
“I feel like extracurricular activities in England (e.g. sports such as football, basketball, tennis)… should not only be taken more seriously, but be more affordable, as children in England can genuinely make [careers of] these things which can help improve their quality of life immensely, which would especially help children growing up in underprivileged households.” – Girl, aged 15.
“I want to play as a footballer or a basketballer and I want to play netball with my friends.” – Boy, aged 8.
“There is not enough sports clubs for example there is only really just football and boxing and some dance but there are not many things like volleyball, basketball, badminton and netball clubs.” – Girl, aged 14.
As we celebrate the closing of this year’s Commonwealth Games, I want to add my congratulations to Birmingham and all those who worked so hard to deliver such a fantastic and successful event. Well done to all those who competed and particularly the medal winners from across the UK!