My Lords, it is a great privilege and pleasure to make my maiden speech on a topic of such importance and one about which I feel so passionate. I should like to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Coe, on the immense progress he has made in delivering the Games to London. I am sure that his outstanding leadership from those early days in Singapore will continue to deliver a very successful Games in London in three years' time.
Since winning the right to stage the Games, much of the talk has been around regeneration and facilities, both of which are very important. However, I should like to focus for a few moments on the impact of the Games on people's lives and young people in particular. In Singapore in July 2005, the noble Lord, Lord Coe, when winning the bid, said that if London was successful we would,
"use the power of the Games to inspire young people to choose sport".
Having spent my life working in sport, I can testify to the immense power it has to change lives. Nelson Mandela said that sport spoke to young people in a language they understood; that it was an instrument for peace, building bridges and breaking down barriers between young people across the world.
So how do we deliver on that promise up to 2012 and, perhaps just as importantly, beyond? Internationally, UK Sport, working with the British Council, UNICEF, LOCOG, the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympics Association and the Youth Sport Trust, is delivering international inspiration. This programme, targeted at 20 developing countries across the world, is aimed at changing the lives of 12 million young people. We are working in India to give young women the self-confidence and self-esteem to play their full part in society through their engagement in sport; we use sport to attract young people so that we can assist in delivering very challenging messages around HIV and AIDS in Zambia; we have introduced for the first time disability sport in Azerbaijan, a concept which is now built into their national physical education and sport strategy. It is critical that the UK uses the momentum of the Games to reach out to the youth of the world. We hope, beyond 2012, that the case for sport as an international tool for development will be both understood and continue to be invested in over the years ahead.
Here in the UK we have seen an unheralded revolution in school sport and a reintroduction of physical education and school sport into both our secondary and primary schools. I hope we can use the power of the Games to consolidate sport at the heart of school life. Through the work of the Youth Sport Trust, we know that quality physical education and sport can help schools achieve better academic standards. It can certainly improve ethos and behaviour, even in the most challenging schools in the most difficult areas of this country. It can definitely have an impact on improved health and wellbeing, including emotional and mental health. It can indeed tackle issues of social inclusion and community cohesion. Surely one of the greatest legacies we could see from London 2012 is that school sport is embedded in the heart of every school. I would argue that school sport is more than a game. Physical education and sport are not an optional extra but a way of building a new youth culture that is so needed in this country.
Finally, I turn to those young people who will compete in 2012. When we achieved our finest results for 100 years in Beijing—fourth in the Olympics and second in the Paralympics Games—it was heralded as a great success. The Olympics and Paralympics arena is a theatre of dreams. It is a place where ordinary people battle against all sorts of odds and, through hard work and perseverance, achieve their dreams. It is their journey, not the medal, which inspires us all. UK Sport is building a world-class system that will give us great pride as we see our athletes achieve in 2012. I hope that beyond 2012 we begin to appreciate that our elite sportsmen and women are not just about national pride but about setting an example for every young person in this country to achieve their personal best, whatever their circumstances and however difficult their journey.
London 2012 is a unique, galvanising force, a catalyst for unprecedented focus and activity. The legacy could be that we lay the foundations for generational change. Let London 2012 not be an end but a beginning for sport in the UK and for the unity of the youth of the world.