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An Olympic trophy carries dust

An Olympic trophy carries dust

‘Memories last forever – Mary Lou Retton, Olympic Gymnast’

After my summer break I’ve been back in action, this time speaking on SLBC’s Tea Break about the 2012 Olympics, which start in London 1 year from now.

In July next year, thousands of young people will march proudly into a magnificent new stadium behind their national flags. They will have trained, strained and dreamed for years to get there. They will carry with them the hopes and dreams of their coaches, their families and their countries. Four billion spectators will join in via television.

When the competition begins athletes will run, swim, jump, throw and shoot their way into the history books. The world will be watching the biggest sporting event since the soccer world cup in South Africa last year. And what a spectacle it will be!

Organising such an extravaganza has been neither cheap nor easy. But from the outset of planning, the Olympics organisers have been determined to leave a valuable legacy for future generations. The world class stadium, for example, will become the home ground for West Ham United. And the accommodation blocks built for the athletes will become low cost housing for the people of east London.

They were also determined to use the Games to inspire young people, to introduce them to sport, to help them to become citizens and leaders their countries can be proud of. One project already changing lives is the International Inspiration programme. This has reached over 10 million young people around the world in 16 countries, including those in Africa.

For example, the UNHCR, the local organising committee and the IOC have launched a joint programme called Giving is Winning, aimed at distributing sports and casual clothes to refugees and displaced people around the world.

Sierra Leone will send a team to London. I for one will be looking out for them during the opening ceremonies. And I know that Sierra Leoneans everywhere will be cheering them on as they do their best to make us proud.

I hope that the team brings home a medal. Maybe Ola Sesay will jump her way to glory; maybe one of her team mates will climb a podium. But come what may, just qualifying for the Olympics puts an athlete near the top of his or her chosen sport. And that’s something to celebrate!

And we should not forget that the Paralympics that will follow the main games. I hope these will unlock opportunities for disabled people around the world – providing long term improvement to access, information and customer service to people with disabilities, opening up disabled sports and changing attitudes to disabled people.

Sierra Leone‘s very talented disabled footballers has represented the country in a number of international competitions. I hope they will qualify for London so that they can also showcase their talent and make Sierra Leone proud.

I’ll be watching on 28 July 2012. I hope you will be too.

Ian Hughes blog, British High Commission, Freetown

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