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From past glories to new hopefuls, MPs share what the Olympics mean to them

12 min read Partner content

As a new generation of athletes prepare to take to the sporting stage in Tokyo, backed by sustained support from the Government and the National Lottery’, Westminster is looking ahead to the Games with high hopes that Team GB will again provide extraordinary moments to unite and inspire the nation

When the Olympics begin in Tokyo this weekend, more than 350 athletes will be readying themselves to compete for Team GB at this year’s Games, with more than 200 athletes waiting in the wings for their time to shine at the Paralympic Games next month. While every Olympic year feels momentous, these Games are particularly remarkable – partly because it isn’t actually an Olympic year at all. Organisers hope the event, rescheduled from 2020, will be a beacon of hope for people around the world who have endured so much during the pandemic.

It’s also set to be a summer of firsts, with five new sports in the Olympic Games – baseball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing – and two new sports in the Paralympics – para-badminton and para-taekwondo. Tokyo is also the first city to host the Paralympic Games for the second time and fittingly, the first ever Paralympic museum will be launched during this year’s Games.

This year is the largest ever Team GB athlete delegation for an Olympic Games on foreign soil and for the very first time at a summer Olympic Games, Team GB will comprise more female than male athletes, with 201 women and 175 men, thanks to a combination of impressive qualification performances across sports and an increased number of female events at the Games. And at the age of just 13 years old, skateboarder Sky Brown will become the youngest British summer Olympian of all time.

With so much promise at the Games this year, it’s impossible to predict what the sporting highlights could turn out to be. We asked some of Westminster’s biggest fans of the Games to share which sports they’ll be keeping an eye out for, as well as their favourite memories of past Olympics and Paralympics. Here’s what they said...

Ben Bradley – MP for Mansfield and Vice-Chair of the Sport APPG

Which athletes are you looking forward to watching at this year’s Games?

As a hockey player, I’m lucky enough to have played with some of the guys in the GB Hockey teams, both men and women, through youth hockey or at club level, and a couple of them come from my current club too. So I really enjoy seeing people like Hollie Webb or Chris Griffiths from my own youth days, or Adam Dixon and Shona McCallin, who started at Newark Hockey Club.

What is your favourite memory from the Olympics?

I’ve had some great experiences and great memories of the Olympics, including watching Andy Murray on the big screen at the Olympic Park in London when he won gold, and watching on TV as my old club mate Hollie Webb scored the winning penalty stroke for the GB ladies hockey team in Rio. My wife and I are both sports mad, so those are days out and experiences that really stand out for us as a family, as well as for the sporting history that they made.

Why do you feel the Olympic and Paralympic Games are important to the nation?

This has been a particularly tough year or so, and supporting our country and seeing that success is a massive lift for everyone. This year that’s more important than ever, and success for our guys and girls in Tokyo would boost the whole country.

Following the famous Gold medal for the Team GB women’s hockey team in Rio, GB Hockey have received almost £13m in funding for the Tokyo cycle. This money is used to ensure the Olympic team are as well prepared for Tokyo as possible and no stone is left unturned. For example, the pitch that the team train on at Bisham Abbey Elite Training Centre is re-laid for every Olympic cycle to match the exact nature of the pitch that the next Olympic Competition will be played on.

Julian Knight – MP for Solihull and Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee 

What is your favourite Olympic sport? 

As a keen cyclist, I always have more than one eye on the velodrome at any Olympics. Britain has gone from being an also-ran in the sport of cycling to being world-leaders – let’s hope it continues at Tokyo.

What is your favourite Olympic memory? 

I remember going to see the volleyball with my wife at the London Olympics – it was amazing to see the happy faces and joyous games-makers.

Why do you feel the Olympic and Paralympic Games are important to the nation? 

It’s all about young people fulfilling their dreams and following the Olympic ideals. The DCMS Committee’s inquiry into major cultural and sporting events will look into how these big sporting events can build lasting social legacies for communities.

David Amess – MP for Southend West and Chair of the Olympic and Paralympic Games All-Party Parliamentary Group

What are your favourite memories of the Games?

Without question, the 2012 London Olympics were the best ever for me. I come from the area where the Olympic Stadium stands and I also had the honour to chair the Olympic Games Bill. Whether it was the Queen parachuting into the stadium, or Super Saturday when we won so many golds, it was fabulous. But going back, my highlights would be Mary Rand in 1964, when she became the first female British athlete to win a gold and then went on to win three events. At the same Games, Lynn Davis winning the long jump – and who can ever forget the Fosbury Flop and the Bob Beamon long jump? So many happy memories.

Why do you feel the Olympic and Paralympic Games are important to the nation?

In life, we all need things to look forward to and perhaps to be optimistic about. The Olympic and inspirational Paralympic Games give us the opportunity to showcase sporting prowess whilst displaying pride in our nation. They are all opportunities to show how we hold dear the principles of fair play and doing one’s best.

How important do you think it is that the Government continues to fund elite sports?

The current co-funding arrangement between Treasury and the Lottery for the Olympic and Paralympic teams should continue to be managed by UK Sport. Funding should be extended beyond the Paris Games so that long term preparation plans can be put in place for Los Angeles 2028.

Olympic and Paralympic sports have received £342 million in investment during the Tokyo cycle, this funding has empowered more than 600 athletes to travel to the Games this summer.

John Lamont – MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and PPS to Oliver Dowden as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Which athletes are you looking forward to watching at this year’s Games?

I’m really looking forward to seeing what Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson can achieve in the athletics. Although, as an MP, I always want to see those from my own constituency doing well. Like Libby Clegg from Newcastleton, who won two golds at the Rio Paralympics and has achieved so much in her career. I have competed in amateur triathlons before so I am always keen to watch those races. The athletics and swimming are always great too, made all the better as Team GB has a lot of success on the track and in the pool.

What are your favourite memories of the Olympic Games?

I was lucky enough to get tickets for a few different events in London in 2012 and it was such an amazing experience to be part of the action at the Olympic Park. I can also vividly remember people like Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie winning medals on the TV when I was younger.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Dina Asher-Smith are both members of the British Athletics Olympic World Class Programme, which enables them to train professionally and have access to the best coaching, sports science and medical support in the world.

The ongoing investment from the Government and the National Lottery means that UK Sport have invested £23m in Athletics during the Tokyo Olympic cycle between 2017 and 2021. Meanwhile, Libby Clegg is a member of the British Athletics Paralympic World Class Programme – and para-athletics athletes have been supported by over £12m of investment from UK Sport during the Tokyo Cycle. 

Karl McCartney – MP for Lincoln and Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Football Club

Which athletes are you looking forward to watching at this year’s Games?

I am particularly looking forward to Sam Atkin from Lincoln’s Wellington Athletics Club, who is representing Team GB in the 10,000m race. I hope he emulates Mo Farah!  

What's your favourite Olympic or Paralympic sport?

My favourite Olympic sports include football of course and I will be heartily cheering on Team GB’s women’s football team – I hope we can have a men’s team at the next Olympics, too. I also really like the BMX racing because it’s really exciting. My sons love it and it also takes me straight back to my teenage years. If only I was younger… what might have been! My favourite Paralympic sport is the five-a-side football and it’s a shame that our team didn’t qualify, so fingers crossed they can do so for Paris in 2024.

Why do you feel the Olympic and Paralympic Games are important to the nation?

Both are really important. Firstly, they always inspire young people to take up sport including in fields they may not even have been aware of before. Secondly, the Paralympic Games specifically has really made a significant contribution in creating an inclusive society far more widely than the sport event itself. Lastly, they provide a sporting occasion for the whole of the UK to come together and get behind our Olympians. For once, the home nation rivalries don’t count, albeit I recall in 2012 Yorkshire claimed to have been 12th in the medals table!

70% of the British population typically tune in to watch Team GB and Paralympics GB at the Olympic and Paralympic Games and 75% of the population feel proud when our athletes succeed.

Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid Worcestershire and Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Sport

Which athletes are you looking forward to watching at this year’s Games?

We have a wonderful range of athletes in Team GB – from our youngest ever Olympian, Sky Brown, to Carl Hester competing in the equestrian at 54 years old. I really am looking forward to seeing them all; often the great Olympic memories come from athletes who weren't household names before the Games, but deliver something special. I saw Holly Bradshaw compete in the pole vault in Gateshead last week and it will be great to see her again in Tokyo.

What's your favourite Olympic or Paralympic sport?

One of the great things about the Olympics and Paralympics is the range of sports. There really is something for everyone. Paralympic swimming is a favourite of mine – I saw it live at London 2012 and my kids remember it very clearly to this day. I'm also a fan of athletics, diving and gymnastics.


Jane Hunt – MP for Loughborough and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Swimming

Which athletes are you looking forward to watching at this year’s Games?

I’m looking forward to cheering on members of Team GB from Loughborough! Loughborough University is known around the world as a centre for sporting excellence, so it’s no surprise that you see some household names walking around the campus. In fact, if Loughborough University was a country, they would have finished 17th on the medal table at the Rio Olympics and 10th in the Paralympics! I am often brushing shoulders with sporting greats here.

What's your favourite Olympic or Paralympic sport?

I do enjoy watching the swimming and show jumping events, but I love it when there are lots of events on the same day. The beauty of the Olympics and Paralympics is that there is something for everyone and you quickly become engrossed watching a sport you know nothing about, marvelling at the sheer skill of the competitors.

How important do you think it is that the Government continues to fund elite sports?

It is very important. The Government invests heavily in elite sports and this has helped us to achieve some amazing results in recent Olympic and Paralympic Games. Whilst also investing in elite sports, it is also important we invest in grassroots sports too. Every Olympian and Paralympian must start from somewhere, so it’s important we continue to invest in all levels of sport.

Loughborough’s Elite Athlete Centre, which is just one of a number of high-performance sport facilities at Loughborough University, was opened in 2018 following a £7million investment in partnership between UK Sport, Loughborough University, the English Institute of Sport and Sport England.

The centre provides athletes with high-quality accommodation near to their training facilities, offers them access to world-class nutrition and offers 20 ‘altitude bedrooms’ where athletes like Mo Farah have slept at altitude to prepare for competition, build fitness and recover from injury. Loughborough is also home to British Swimming’s National Centre, where many of the world’s best swimmers train. 

Investment from the Government and the National Lottery means Team GB are in the best possible shape as they head to Tokyo this summer - and they’ll be cheered on from afar, in Westminster and across the nation.


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