Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson wants more sport take-up

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has made her maiden speech in the House of Lords

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Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson's maiden speech in the House of Lords called for greater access to physical activity for young people.

The Paralympian took part in a debate on preparations for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

She argued the importance of maximising a "spike" in physical activity which is likely to follow.

The Baroness particularly wants to see greater opportunities for disabled children and girls.

She said: "We all need to grasp the opportunity of the games being on home soil to inspire our nation to think differently, and to include every part of our great nation.

"It is an amazing opportunity for us all to pull together."

'People's Peer'

Baroness Grey-Thompson won 11 Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair racing and is Britain's most successful Paralympian.

She took her place in the House as a crossbench 'People's Peer' in March.

Start Quote

In the autumn of 2012 there should be a spike in participation rates in physical activity... we need to work hard, right now, to maximise that...”

End Quote Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson

Baroness Grey-Thompson told the House that London led the way in organising a Paralympic games that will raise the bar in terms of sponsorship, sustainability, transport, and inclusion, which other countries will want to follow.

But she argued that it was behind the scenes that there is opportunity to "promote real change" beyond competitive sport alone.

She said: "What we do know from previous games is that in the Autumn of 2012 there should be a spike in participation rates in physical activity, but we need to work hard, right now, to maximise that because I believe, perhaps surprisingly, that elite competitive sport is not for all.

"Involvement in physical fitness can help lead to improved learning, greater confidence and general wellness; all the things we want for our young people."

The Baroness spoke of the need to ensure all young people have access to physical activity both in and outside school; that disabled children have the right and opportunity to be included, and that girls find the right environment to develop skills.

Women

She said: "We currently know that women are employed in only 1 in 5 of the top jobs in sport.

"To be a successful nation, not just in sport, but in business, we should challenge that, because sport is a microcosm of society."

Since retiring from wheelchair racing in 2007 Baroness Grey-Thompson has become a voice in sports administration and disability rights.

She sits on a number of committees of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG)

The Cardiff-born Paralympian studied politics at Loughborough University and has said she finds her new political challenge appealing as it is something very different for her.

The Baroness has previously said her political interests will lie in disability rights, access and education where she believes "there is still a lot of challenges".

Lord Shutt of Greenland will lead the debate on preparations for the 2012 Oympic and Paralympic games.

Chair of the organising committee Lord Coe has said that "extraordinary progress" has been made and preparations are within budget and ahead of schedule.

And he has given assurances that the "spectacular" Olympics will not be affected by budget cuts following Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's announcement that the games may not be ring-fenced.

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