COLUMN by Cllr Peter Lamb, leader of the Labour Group, Crawley Borough Council: Olympics is a great opportunity to regain our national self-confidence

Between the regular tales of mismanagement and a seemingly endless countdown, it’s too easy to be cynical about the 30th Olympiad which kicks off in London this week. Make no mistake, the 2012 Olympic Games is more than a simple athletics competition, it’s an international symbol and for the UK it’s a chance to regain a sense of hope and pride which we’ve lost in recent years.

Sport cuts across all lines of race, religion, gender and social status. In an increasingly complex world, Britons from every walk of life are able to stand united and take pride in the accomplishments of their fellow countrymen and our long sporting history. In difficult times such as these the victory of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France and Jonathan Marray in the Wimbledon Men’s Doubles remain a testament that whatever is done to us economically and politically the British spirit lives on.

During its time in office the Labour Party was proud to support sport in the UK and fought to win the Olympics bid for Briton back in 2005. From 1997 to 2007, Labour tripled investment in elite sport and Britain leapt in the Olympics medal table from 36th in 1996 to 4th in 2008 (coming 2nd in the Paralympics). Throughout this period, schools and communities across the country also benefited from new facilities and a renewed focus on sport as part of a healthier and happier lifestyle.

While cuts to sports funding have since made their mark, I still have high hopes that Team GB will do us proud. But more than that, I hope that after the Olympics we can take away that same sense of pride that we have for our country’s sportsmen back to our own lives. If Britain is to rebuild itself economically and socially, we must first regain our national self-confidence and the Games are a great place to start. A Twenty-First Century Britain with a renewed sense of identity and purpose, now that would be an Olympic legacy we could all benefit from.