Olympics time – time to be inspired by athletes

My latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald.

2016-08-11_WGH_OlympicsPhysical activity is a powerful force for good and these two weeks, the world’s top athletes come together to compete in the Rio Olympics.

Wiltshire is not necessarily known for its front line sporting achievements, but we do have some amazing athletes including London 2012 Gold medallist Ed McKeever, swimmer Jazz Carlin and five-time Paralympic medal winning swimmer Stephanie Millward, who will compete is Rio in a few weeks’ time.

We do not all have to be Olympic athletes to get the benefits of exercise. Whether playing football, doing some gardening or walking the dog, getting active can improve people’s physical health and mental well-being. There are many reasons why the Government should be investing in sport. Sport can, and does, make a profound and positive impact on society.

Sport contributes over £20 billion to the English economy and the contribution to employment is even greater – sport and sport-related activity is estimated to support over 500,000 jobs. Physical activity is linked to reduced risk of over 20 illnesses, including cardio-vascular disease and some cancers and taking part in regular sport can save between £1,750 and £7,000 in healthcare costs per person.

Increasing sport participation also has a positive impact on community safety, boosts academic attainment and sports programmes have the potential to strengthen social networks.

There are some great initiatives to increase participation in sport and improve facilities; Active Wiltshire and Cycle Wiltshire organise events for all ages and abilities and Wiltshire Council’s ambitious campus programme will enable all our communities to access high-quality facilities.

We can all learn lessons from our Olympians. Whilst we do not want a win-at-all-costs mentality which leads to bad sportsmanship, we do want to be driven by success.

All too often our political leaders have been happy with second, third, fourth or fifth place – epitomised when the Labour government banned ‘winning’ at school sports days, for fear of upsetting those who did not win. That’s not the attitude of an Olympian. Being happy in the middle is the surest way to fail to reach you goals. We should want Team GB to win and we must ensure the government is winning the global race in post-Brexit Britain.

I hold surgeries every Friday as well as regular meetings throughout the constituency. To book an appointment call 01249704465 or email michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk