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Justine Greening: The hon. Lady makes an excellent point that is linked to debates that we have held about vocational education. Does she agree that, if ever there were a trigger for focusing the House's attention on expanding our vocational education so that children in our schools today can benefit from the opportunities, it is the Olympics?

Meg Hillier: I am delighted that the hon. Lady is so supportive of the Government's 14-to-19 education agenda, which is being pursued along precisely the lines that she has described. I agree that we need to ensure that children across the UK, but particularly local London children in Putney, Hackney, Islington, Leyton, Wanstead and Newham benefit from the games. We need to ensure that young people in our schools today are in a position not only to be trained for the jobs that will be available during the development of the Olympic park, but to develop skills that will provide them with an opportunity to get good, long-term jobs thereafter.

It is worth highlighting for the benefit of hon. Members who are not connected with east London that the London Development Agency is setting up a business intelligence unit and an Olympic business club, as well as providing business support for businesses in the area and a job brokerage scheme. Hackney council and the other borough councils are anxious to work on that scheme to ensure that local people really benefit.

The packed lunches of 1948 have been mentioned. Perhaps we have moved on from that now. Hackney has been in the lead in setting up a catering and hospitality centre and we are hoping that one of the legacies of the Olympics will be a centre of excellence for food and hospitality. No borough could be more appropriate than Hackney to host such a centre, as it already has restaurants of every nationality and some of the best food in London. We hope that the centre will become a training venue in which people can skill up so as to get the benefit of the jobs available in the food and hospitality industries in this city and internationally.
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I want briefly to turn to matters outside Hackney's boundaries. Other hon. Members have come up with suggestions for how we can embrace the popular interest in the 2012 Olympics in the UK. For the special Olympics, which were held in Ireland a little while ago, each town and city adopted a country. Perhaps we could consider such a scheme here. Similar approaches have also been suggested. Each national group that comes to the Olympics is represented in Hackney and, I am sure, in the other four Olympic boroughs. I am sure that the national groups in my borough will be keen to welcome and link up with the national teams from their home countries. London is multinational—that was one of the strengths of our bid—so let us celebrate that and make it a central part of the work that we do between now and 2012.

The games have strong backing. We have heard about the number of people who have registered on the website to volunteer and to support the bid. It is important that communication and the involvement of citizens are continuing themes of the activities of the Olympic organising committee.

Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State consider a proposal supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) and me: the people's games? This is a proposal to develop a mutual organisation in which every citizen is entitled to own a share and thereby become part of a sounding board for the Olympic organising committee. In that way, every citizen in this country could have a real stake in the games. Whether they are from Northern Ireland, east Dunbartonshire or east London, they could become closely involved.

I finish by saying that Hackney is four-square behind the Olympics, but we know that the hard work to ensure that local people and local businesses benefit from them starts here. We are up to that challenge and we look forward to the Olympic games coming to London in 2012.

5.18 pm

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): I apologise for not being here at the start of the debate. As I mentioned in an earlier intervention, I was chairing a meeting of the National Strategic Partnership for Volunteering in Sport, which was being held in the House. I just wish we could find a shorter title for the organisation; we are working on it.

A massive contribution will be made to the games by volunteering. Today's debate has quite rightly been dominated by London Members; London will benefit to a great extent from the games. However, the way to engage the entire population across the country is through the distribution of training camps—I shall come back to that later when I talk about Loughborough's contribution—and through volunteering. At least 70,000 volunteers will be required. It is interesting that, of the five candidate cities, only London submitted a volunteer file with its original application.

We have made an enormous contribution in the past through our history of volunteering in sport, but I do not think that has been recognised by some of the other cities. There are stories that there were more British volunteers than Greek ones at the athletics in Athens. People feel that they want to contribute to sport, and many do so through volunteering.
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I am sure hon. Members know that this is the year of the volunteer, and August is the month of sports volunteering. This morning, we launched the campaign to raise its profile with Tanni Grey-Thompson, a great Paralympian—the Paralympics must be integral to our purpose—who is known not just as a gold medallist across a wide range of sports but as a coach and volunteer. She wants to put back into her sport what she has managed to get out of it over the last few years. That is a demonstration of the commitment from many people across the country.

It is estimated that this country has about 6 million unpaid sports volunteers, which is equivalent to 720,000 full-time jobs. Volunteers are paid nothing not because they are worthless but because they are priceless. Their contribution to sport, both at grassroots and elite levels, has made an enormous difference in this country. I hope that Members can squeeze into their diaries for August, which are probably full already, something related to promoting sport in their constituencies and making sure that people register themselves on the website to volunteer in 2012.

Jeremy Corbyn: Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the big problems has been the sale of playing fields—particularly in urban areas where schools have in the past, though not recently, been encouraged to sell them—and the propensity of local authorities to charge far too much for sports facilities, thereby pricing many people out of sporting activity so that they end up back in front of the television?

Mr. Reed: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. As he knows, I have a great passion for grassroots sport in particular. I still play rugby every Saturday afternoon during the winter, at the playing field of the school that I attended until I was 18. I must admit that on Saturday afternoon we are the only team that uses the pitches, tennis courts, basketball courts and indoor facilities of that school. The costs have increased dramatically over the past few years. In terms of the legacy of the Olympics, we should make it successful across the country. Unless there is a legacy not only at the elite level, about which I want to speak specifically, but at the grassroots level, nobody will feel that there has been enormous benefit.

Great expectations have rightly been raised since the announcement. Everyone wants a training camp in their constituency, and everyone thinks that every 14-year-old they know who is quite good at sport will be in the Olympics. The reality, however, is that we will have a team of only about 200 or 300 athletes. I wish people well, but most of those who will be competing in the Olympics in seven years' time are probably already in development squads. Many people who are very excited about the Olympics will still, like me, be playing on muddy pitches around their constituencies in 20 years' time, and not competing at elite level. It is therefore important that we get the right combination of funding for elite athletes who will go on to win gold medals, to which having the Olympics in London will make an enormous difference, and ensuring that the real legacy is not just 50 m swimming pools but swimming pools across the patch, decent playing fields and decent changing rooms across the country. So my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) makes an important point.
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In relation to the sale of playing fields, there has been a step change, and while we have not reached the point at which we are not selling any off, at least there has been a massive reduction in sales of playing fields. In many cases, where a playing field has been sold, it has been replaced by a better facility, as is the case in my constituency.

In terms of regional development, places such as Loughborough, Sheffield and Bath—I see that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) is back in his place; we follow each other around all the time—have, as part of the English Institute of Sport, some of the best facilities in the world for athletes. The Chinese team has already been to look around facilities such as ours, and will probably locate themselves at one of our three bases. As other Members have said, however, I am keen on not just Loughborough benefiting, but the whole of Leicestershire and possibly the whole east midlands. We cannot provide all the facilities for the Chinese team, but we could do athletics, netball, basketball and a wide range of other events, and we have a 50 m pool and cricket academy. Others events would have to be farmed out within the region, so a great partnership would be required. Every Member rightly wants something to come to their constituency, and every area with a 25 m pool wants to match itself with a country somewhere in the world, but we should create a clearing house so that the competition is proactive rather than destructive.

Finally, the success of the games will be measured by the number of gold medals that our athletes win. Every nation has always done much better in the medal tables when it has hosted the games than when it has not. The target for what our athletes achieve in Beijing in 2008 is already pretty ambitious, and we hope that they do even better in 2012. As I said, though, the people who will succeed in 2012 might already be in the development programme. I agree with UK Sport and the British Olympic Association that we need stability in the funding that is made available. We want the four-year programme to 2008 to be extended to 2012, and funding to be increased to ensure that our children and youngsters are able to win gold.

By making our young people winners, we will make sure that all of us are winners in 2012.

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