Sport England Chair issues articipation challenge

6 May 2009 10:09 AM

Sport England’s Chair, Richard Lewis, yesterday challenged everyone in sport to do more to encourage participation by people with learning disabilities.

He laid down the gauntlet as Sport England announced an investment of £200,000 in this year’s Special Olympics GB National Summer Games.

Thousands of athletes are expected to compete in the games, supported by over a thousand coaches and 2,000 volunteers. The event, which is open to children and adults with a learning disability, is being staged in Leicester from 25 to 31 July 2009.

Ted Cassidy MBE, chairman of Special Olympics Leicester, said:

“Sport England’s investment in sport for athletes with learning disabilities is great news.

“This support will help to raise the profile of the National Summer Games and, with athletes coming to Leicester from across Great Britain, will help us stage a world-class sporting event."

Sport England’s Chair, Richard Lewis, said: “The games offer a great chance for over 2,700 athletes of all ages to realise their potential and experience the thrill of competing in a major sporting event.

“Progress is being made in opening up sporting opportunities, but there is a long way to go - particularly in driving participation amongst people with learning disabilities.

“Every sport, and all those involved in running sport, need to show the determination and ambition to ensure that everyone can benefit from sport’s power to transform lives.”

Athletes will compete in 21 sports, including some which are new to Special Olympics such as kayaking. The kayaking programme has been developed with the support of the British Canoe Union and will see athletes competing over 200m and 500m courses, either on their own or as a pair.

BCU Chief Executive, Paul Owen, said:

“The BCU is delighted to be involved in the 2009 Special Olympics. As an organisation, we are committed to the principles of equality and opportunity and aim to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in Paddlesport.

“Special Olympics has an admirable history of promoting the development of individuals with learning disabilities and we are looking forward to supporting our Paddlesport team, who will be competing in Special Olympics for the first time.”

Notes to Editors

Special Olympics GB is a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering individuals with learning disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition.

Special Olympics GB National Summer Games will take place in Leicester from 25 – 31 July 2009.

Sport England’s Active People Survey 2 suggests that the number of adults with a disability regularly taking part in sport has increased by 48,000, from 387,000 to 435,000 over the past two years (2005/6 to 2007/8). The proportion of adults with a disability who participate in sport is significantly lower than among the adult population as a whole.

Sport England invests National Lottery and Exchequer funding in organisations and projects that will grow and sustain participation in grassroots sport and create opportunities for people to excel at their chosen sport.

Sport England is committed to creating a world-leading community sport system, and has set specific and measurable targets to achieve by 2012/13:

•One million people doing more sport

•A 25% reduction in the number of 16- to 18-year-olds who drop out of at least five key sports

•Improved talent development systems in at least 25 sports

•A measurable increase in people’s satisfaction with their experience of sport

•A major contribution to the delivery of the five hour sports offer for children and young people.

For more information please contact the press office: Peter Dickinson on 020 7273 1800 or Andrew St Ledger on 020 7273 1593.