Give our kids a real sporting chance

Public meeting with MP John Mann to discuss Bassetlaw Hospital clinical services review information.  Mr Mann at the meeting. (w110115-1c)
Public meeting with MP John Mann to discuss Bassetlaw Hospital clinical services review information. Mr Mann at the meeting. (w110115-1c)

Gold medals, torrential rain and flooding. It must be a British summer, with Jessica Ennis certain of a tumultuous return in glory to Sheffield.

Already I hear that the Don Valley stadium is to be renamed after her and doubtless a local school- why not one of ours- the Jessica Ennis Academy has a good ring about it.

Seb Coe, who told me that he did much of his training on the country lanes of Bassetlaw has certainly delivered a superb Olympics. In Atlanta in 1996 we won only 16 medals and a solitary gold won by Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent. Even Hong Kong and Burundi won as many golds as we did. How things have changed.

There are three fundamental changes that have taken place. Firstly sports governing bodies have had to meet clear targets in order to get funding - and those sports that are well run have thrived, whilst those badly run have suffered. Is it any surprise therefore that football failed yet again? Can there be any group in our Olympics Team GB that are so overpaid and overrated?

Secondly, the National Lottery has provided money for elite training. Under Sports Minister, Richard Caborn - also from Sheffield- elite sports funding was pushed to the fore, overseen by a key UK Sport background elite sports supremo, Sue Campbell.

Thirdly, Richard Caborn fought and won the key battle to get schools sport taken seriously again. A crucial part of our Olympic legacy must be to re-instate the school sports co-ordinators so wrongly got rid of in the cuts last year. Jessica Ennis competed in her first schools competition in 1999, aged thirteen, and like all our medal winners emerged through competing in schools sport.

The truth is that nobody knows who will win gold medals in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics, but we do know that they will nearly all be young schoolchildren today. Some may well be in our own schools.

We need to ensure therefore that everyone at school is encouraged and enabled to try the full range of sport and our community sports clubs are key to this. We have the advantage, as the unique Bassetlaw Games proved, to deliver every sport in our area. Wouldn’t it be a fantastic legacy if we could build our own athletics stadium to highlight the importance we put on sport and to signify to all our children that we will encourage their excellence.

After all, what is more important to you, more paving in town centres, new windows in Town Hall or a centre that will inspire the young generation? I know which I choose.