Debbie Lye: It's a proud achievement to have pulled off the "2012" doubleSubscribe
Debbie Lye 15 February 2012
Having been involved in the genesis of International Inspiration in 2007, it was a great moment when the announcement came that the programme has now reached 20 countries.
International Inspiration, London 2012's international legacy programme, has had an impact on the lives of 12 million children and young people, many of them from some of the world's most disadvantaged communities, and to know we achieved our goal by June last year. It is a proud achievement to have pulled off the "2012" double well before the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
Over the past five years, with the London 2012 team focused on organising the greatest Olympic and Paralympic Games the world has ever seen, UK Sport, UNICEF and the British Council, with the support and backing of the II Foundation, have been set on achieving our vision of enriching the lives of 12 million children and young people in 20 countries worldwide through the power of high quality and inclusive sport, physical education and play. It has been a challenging but always fascinating journey, taking us from the arid cattle region of Karamoja in Uganda, to the mega-cities of Mumbai and Jakarta via the island paradise of Palau, the jungles of Sabah, the adventure of the Great Ethiopian run and, most recently, post-revolutionary Egypt.
I led a delegation of International Inspiration partners on a planning visit to Cairo two weeks ago. The first three days were spent participating in the Take Part conference, brilliantly organised by the British Council in Egypt. The conference was built around the "three Ps" of International Inspiration. Day one was for groups of Participants – young people in schools, universities, youth groups such as the scouts and some of Egypt's young sporting champions, including inspirational young high-jump athlete, Sara Helmy. On day two some of those young people joined a group of Practitioners, teachers, lecturers, sports coaches, National Youth Council and NGO employees. They heard the views of the Participants from the previous day and framed their own recommendations for day three which was the platform for the Policy-makers.
It was a genuinely impressive gathering at which the Minister for Education and the Chairs of the National Sports Council and the Egypt Paralympic Committee all spoke. I was lucky enough to share a platform with Tanni Grey-Thompson – who is also an ambassador for International Inspiration – and in our double act I covered some of the global history and context of International Inspiration, while Tanni brought the meaning of what we are doing alive with her personal memories and reflections as one of the world's great champions in and of sport.
We were followed on stage by a senior figure from the Ministry of Education in Jordan who told the Egyptian audience, in Arabic, of the real difference that International Inspiration has made in his country. As he revealed to us that International Inspiration Young Sports Leader training has now been integrated into the King Abdullah Award scheme in over 500 Jordanian schools, it was clear to the whole audience that International Inspiration really is making a difference.
There is no doubt about the passion for sport in Egypt which chimes with people's keen sense of national pride and the new spirit emerging from last year's revolution. The Young Sports Leadership initiative that has been so successful in Jordan is something all stakeholders we met asked us to help them develop, and make sustainable and it will certainly be a core element in our International Inspiration Egypt plan.
The next day we continued our schedule of meetings with senior stakeholders. I was very honoured to be presented with a goatskin decorated with an image of the revolution by a Community Youth Centre in Cairo where a highlight was meeting the local hero, a 90-year-old gentleman known as the Father of Wrestling, who has coached all his life, and enabled generations of boys from humble homes to become world class wrestlers. His 70-year-old son also coaches there. To round off the visit, some of the delegation also joined locals in a fiercely contested seated volleyball match.
Then later that evening the terrible events unfolded at the football stadium in Port Said. As Cairo embarked on three days of mourning, and protests and skirmishes erupted across the city, our journey and positive work continued. A Young Sports Leader Training event in a school adjacent to the Al-Ahly stadium, home ground of most of the victims of the Port Said incident, has gone ahead at the express request of the National Sports Council.
As we left, the words and shining face of another inspirational Egyptian, Olympic swimmer and IOC member, Dr Rania Amr Elwani, were still vivid. She devotes much of her life to widening access to sport in general and to her national swimming school for thousands of young children across Egypt. "I will carry on doing what I do because this work is so important".
Debbie Lye is the international development director and International Inspiration programme director at UK Sport.
This blog frist appeared on Inside the Games