It was another packed week for me last week across the full range of my brief but in amongst all the hard work there was some very enjoyable moments along the way.
A big week for sport
A real highlight was meeting Britain’s first ever women’s Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on Tuesday.
Nicola and others in the GB boxing team were being put through their paces by their coaches but they took a break from their training to say hello and made me feel very welcome. I was half-tempted to get in the ring and do a bit of sparring myself but looking at the pace and the movement of Nicola and her pals, it’s probably best that I didn’t.
Nicola and I spoke about the real growth there has been in women’s boxing since she won Olympic Gold last year. According to Sport England there’s been an extra 12,000 women that have taken up the sport in the last 12 months, up 50 per cent to more than 35,000. There is no doubt that the ‘Adams’ effect played a big role in this increase.
Prior to my visit to Sheffield I was in Bury at the Maccabi Centre to see a project in Sport England’s £2.3 million women’s sport pilot in the town. This investment is about trying to close the gender gap in participation between women and men in Bury. It’s about offering sport to women in a way that appeals to them, whether that be a Zumba dance class or a game of rounders after they’ve dropped their kids off at school.
In the Maccabi Centre around 25 women were taking part in a ‘boot camp’ doing different exercises at stations. I put the trainers on for this and got involved in some step aerobics. The instructor was a hard taskmaster but the smiles on the faces of the participants said it all. When the year-long pilot is over in 2014 we’ll look to take the lessons from Bury and roll them out to other parts of the country. There is currently a 1.7 million gap between men and women playing sport and I want to see that significantly closed. I have played sport all through my life and it is such a force for good.
On Thursday night I was at the Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswoman of the Year awards to celebrate another fantastic year for our top sportswomen. Congratulations to Christine Ohuruogu for being named Sportswoman of the Year for her fantastic effort winning World Championship gold and the England netball team for taking the team of the year prize, for their domination in 2013.
Congratulations also to swimmer Amy Marren who was named Disability sportsperson of the year, rower Sarah Winckless who won the Helen Rollason award for her tireless campaigning for Hungtindon Disease charities and triathlete Sarah Springman who won the lifetime achievement award. Credit also to the Sunday Times and Sky Sports for championing women’s sport and putting on a fantastic event.
Children inspired by First World War heroes
Off the sports beat I also visited the Fusilier Museum while I was in Bury to meet the team there, learn about the Lancashire Fusiliers and hear about some of their plans to commemorate the anniversary of the First World War. It was great to see the education work they do at the Museum with children from a local school really engaged with an actor role playing as a soldier from the War.
Tourism building the recovery
Finally on my tourism brief it was a pleasure to speak at Visit England’s ‘Visitor Economy Forum’ on Thursday. Tourism has a huge role to play in helping with our economic recovery and I am delighted that the industry has kept up the momentum this year following a huge 2012 when we showcased the best of Britain with the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee. I’ll do all I can to help the sector continue to thrive in 2014.