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Sport has been one of the great change agents in my life. In the early 1980s, when researching a book called "Winning in Sport", I had the chance to travel throughout America to interview Olympic gold medallists. I came across someone called David Hemery, who was teaching at Boston university--a Colchester man, as the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell) knows. David had on his staff another amazing athlete called Joan Benoit, who was to go on to win the women's marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. Amazingly, six weeks before that, she had undergone major surgery.
David's story is worth telling. When he was a boy, his mother came into the garden to tell him that Roger Bannister had broken the four-minute mile. David was, to put it mildly, unhappy. As a young boy, he had wanted to be the first person to break the four-minute mile. He threw what I imagine we would call a tantrum.
David not only went on to win the 400 m hurdles in the 1968 Mexico Olympics but at the same time broke the world record. Double golds are very rare. It must be recalled that David achieved that after a false start, yet in his mind for many years he knew that one day he would be ready to go to that final. He had played it out in his mind time and again that he would win and break the tape. Today, he is chairman of UK Athletics and is giving something back to a sport that has given him a huge amount. David's mentor was Roger Bannister. For each generation, there is a Pele, a Best, a Nicklaus, a Woods, a Herb Elliott or a Steve Ovett. Sport needs heroes.
I mention David because we witnessed, as other Members have said, an amazing September and October in the Olympics and Paralympics in Sydney. I look forward to the day when there are not two separate Olympics and our people come together in one Olympics. I hope that we will not have to wait too long. It was wonderful.
It saddens me that the women's soccer movement and the young men's soccer movement are not allowed to compete in the Olympics as a result of parochial thinking in the soccer unions in the four countries of the United Kingdom. We are also struggling in cricket in world terms and in rugby league. Hockey needs a renaissance and my own sport, rugby union, has still regularly to threaten the hegemony of the southern hemisphere countries. In the so-called professional team sports, we are second--sometimes third--division. Until the base of the pyramid is more secure, it will for ever be thus, but I am pleased that, for the first time, we have a Government who are committed to trying to arrest that decline.
At 1 am, a large audience of just under 7 million, many of whom were children, watched Sir Steve Redgrave, as I hope he will become, win his fifth gold medal, and let us not forget Matthew Pinsent's fantastic achievements in rowing.
Where would those children have gone the next day if they had wanted to try rowing? How would they have found out about it? Where would they have gone the next week? What is true of rowing, which is our most successful sport in the Olympics, is true of other sports. Where would they have gone for cycling, athletics or sailing? Soon, all the good will created by the Olympics will have been dissipated, which is sad.
I suggest a change agent for the way in which we think about sport. Will the Minister consider the establishment of a post-Olympic fund to hire the likes of the Redgraves to act as Olympic ambassadors? We should not be frightened to award them a two-year contract worth £250,000. That is what the FA did for its 2006 World cup bid. It hired Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst. We need those ambassadors to act as full-time mentors for our children.
To make that work, we need to build from the grass roots a lottery-funded Olympic club in every constituency. Into the club would go the clubs and school teachers of the region, so that for once we would build one organisation that represented the entity of sport in a community. Into that would go the 1,000 sports co-ordinators and the ownership of the parks.
One of the problems is that, unlike the National Trust, we have no national trust for urban parks, which we need. That is why club houses are torched and cricket squares are dug up. That is why they become drug ridden and why prostitutes occasionally ply their trade in them. We need to get back ownership of the parks. It is easy to let local authority funds for parks go. It is wrong that a warden on a moped should have to try to ensure the security of three parks in a community. The ownership of parks is key because they are where green spaces are; they could be owned by the Olympic club in the constituency.
Each Olympic club could be linked quickly by a sporting portal on the internet, whereby people could seek information and find out about coaching, where coaches are, what their addresses are, where the facilities are, what time they open and so on. Members will have almost guessed what is coming next. Side by side with that sporting portal should be an Olympic sports channel on digital television.
I would have added that that should be a public service channel paid for by the BBC from the licence fee, but I am no longer sure that the BBC sees itself as a public service organisation. I shall dwell on its role in sports broadcasting.
If, over the next six months, we lose the debate about a dedicated sports channel, we will have to ponder whether the BBC should be allowed monopoly of access to the licence fee. There is a precedent. In the late 1960s, the Open university, another major change agent in my life, was supported by Harold Wilson and Jennie Lee. They put pressure on the BBC governors to allow a £3 million "allowance" to kick start the Open university.
I urge Ministers, especially my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to demand that the BBC provide a public service sports channel. If it does not want to do so, we should put out a tender document for it. We should take the £40 million required to run such a service directly out of the licence fee.
If the BBC refuses to do that, let us ensure that the White Paper on communications that is due in mid-December recommends that the licence fee will no longer automatically be paid to the BBC. I am serious. The BBC has wasted perhaps as much as £300 million on BBC Choice, BBC Knowledge and BBC News 24 for its own vanity. That is enough to operate an Olympic sports channel for seven years.
Sport is the largest cultural activity in the world. There are more members of FIFA and of the International Olympic Committee than there are of the United Nations. If we are to move sport up the political ladder, it is vital that we as a Government deliver a public service sports channel. We need such a channel for sport education, sports coaching, sports history, sports medicine and sports psychology, and for delivering the sports curriculum to our primary and secondary schools. It is very important that we win this debate in the next six months.
Despite the IOC's claims that it is now a transparent organisation, Mr. Reedie has declined to disclose the contents of the letter detailing the allegations to the media or to the joint leader of the Manchester bid, who is now the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer). BOA officials have variously claimed that they no longer have a copy of the letter or that, if they do, it is the copyright of the IOC and cannot be disclosed without its consent.
It is common knowledge that the two IOC members--Mr. Augustin Arroyo of Ecuador and Mr. Tony Bridge of Jamaica--behaved badly during their visit to Manchester in 1993. If we are to make an Olympic bid--I currently have some doubts about the validity of such bids--we must be confident that the IOC and our own BOA will behave openly and transparently. We must know whether the BOA report puts Britain's interests--or those of the IOC--first.
I should give the House a little more background on the matter. On 29 January 1999, as the Salt Lake City corruption scandal peaked, new allegations of corruption were spilling out of former bidding cities worldwide. In an attempt to staunch the disclosures, IOC President Samaranch sent a letter to the national Olympic committees of all countries that had recently bid for games. He wrote:
What is the truth of the Manchester allegations? Did the British Olympic Association make a full and frank report that has been ignored by the IOC? We do not know. I ask the Minister to make a copy of the report available in the Library. It is important that that is done. Craig Reedie is a board member of the UK Sports Council and is a major player in sports administration. It is also important that, in the 21st century, the United Kingdom, which has given so much to the world of sport, maintains an integrity in the Olympic movement. That is much more important than winning brownie points. I also ask that there be greater transparency, particularly in relation to that report.
Today, the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter) tabled his Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill, which broadly reflects the contents of my own ten-minute Bill, the Equal Access (Public and Private Buildings) Bill. His Bill seeks to end discrimination in sport, which so many women endure daily.
I shall give a couple of examples of that discrimination. A woman who belongs to a bowling club in Faversham has to pay the same membership fee as a man but is denied a vote at the annual general meeting. There are many examples of such discrimination in women's golf. One hon. Member's wife was to play at a national tournament at the Royal and Ancient in Scotland, but was told that she could not change in the clubhouse as women were not allowed there. She therefore changed in her car.
The provisions of the hon. Gentleman's small Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill aim to deal with discrimination against women. The Bill gives us an opportunity to end the last remnants in sport of discrimination against 51 per cent. of our population, but, astonishingly, we are not willing to allow it sufficient time for consideration in this place.