The Olympic Legacy was a vital part of London 2012's successful bid to stage the games back in 2005. Some of our aspirations included: encouraging wider participation in sports, inspiring others to volunteer and encouraging social change. This week bore testament to the success of those ideals, in a very special way, through two separate initiatives.
The Invictus Games (www.invictusgames.org) are an international sporting festival for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women. Over 400 competitors from 13 nations compete in 9 adaptive sports at iconic London venues including the Lea Valley Athletic Centre and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The games commenced on Wednesday with the Opening Ceremony and as Minister for Sport and the Olympic Legacy I will be there this weekend to cheer the competitors on.
Promoted by Prince Harry, the aim is to harness the power of sport to "inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and generate a wider understanding and respect of those who serve their country". I must give special mention to Maidstone's own Nyasha Zaranyika selected by Prince Harry to be an Invictus 'Digital Champion', publicising the events through social media.
The European Summer Games of the Special Olympics (www.specialolympics.org) also commenced this week in Antwerp and I had the chance to meet Team GB and their support volunteers at a reception before they left for Belgium.
These games are for athletes with intellectual disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, and many others. It is difficult to describe the joy I felt in meeting everyone and witnessing the profound effect that participation, both as athletes and volunteers, is having on their lives.
The power of sport is extending its reach more than ever before. New athletes are discovering previously untapped strengths and abilities whilst experiencing jubilation, confidence and fulfilment as a direct result. They also inspire people in their communities and beyond to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential. The Olympic Legacy is alive and well.
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