The pride that we feel in the efforts made by UK athletes to make their dreams come true is profound and unshakeable. However, that pride has never been more heartfelt than it is as we look forward to the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo.
In common with people across the world, our athletes have faced unprecedented challenges in the last 18 months. International competition has been disrupted, training facilities have been compromised. And, like the rest of humanity, everybody in the high-performance community has faced the fear that they, and their loved ones, might fall victim to the coronavirus.
The fact that athletes from around the world are gathering in Tokyo ready to compete is a testament to the spirit of resilience and determination that finds its purest expression in the sporting arena.
It is incredibly sad that spectators from around the globe will not be able to gather with those athletes and savour their exploits in person. Nevertheless, I am confident the world will witness a celebration of sporting excellence that delivers a much-needed boost to people everywhere.
I am also confident that, while these Games take place in unique circumstances, our athletes will deliver many extraordinary moments and performances for the British public to enjoy. We know how much their endeavours mean to sports fans – and how they can be a beacon of hope to inspire and reconnect us all after such a difficult year.
I look forward to seeing the first British athletes in action tomorrow, when Team GB’s women’s football team play their first match of the tournament against Chile.
While we believe our athletes have the potential to achieve a total of medals comparable to London 2012 and Rio 2016, success should now, more than ever, be measured more holistically. UK Sport launched our strategy for the next ten years recently with a mission to create the greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments, reaching, inspiring and uniting the nation.
We will be looking to the future in Tokyo, enjoying the emergence of new talent and the growing diversity of our teams as we harness the power of sport to make a positive difference to society. Our main priority, however, will of course be the welfare and wellbeing of our athletes in Japan as they strive to achieve their dreams.
We must never forget that none of this would be possible without the support of the Government and National Lottery players over the last quarter of a century.
Dame Katherine Grainger, DBE
Chair, UK Sport