Oral Statement - The Commonwealth Games 2010
I am sure everyone here will want to join me in congratulating Team Wales for its achievements at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The Commonwealth Games is a very special sporting event. The games have grown significantly over the years and are now the second largest multi-sport event after the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Seventy one countries and around 6,000 athletes came together to compete in the 2010 games. That shows the sheer scale of the event and the competition involved.For Wales, the Commonwealth Games are particularly significant because it is the only multi-games event in which we compete as a nation. For many athletes, this is their only opportunity torepresent Wales at the highest level of competition.
Team Wales sent a team of 175 athletes to the games to represent the country, one of the largest teams ever sent by Wales, and I would like to congratulate each and every one of them for achieving the honour of representing their country at such a prestigious event. I look forward to attending the welcome home ceremony at the beginning of November.In all, Welsh athletes achieved a total of 19 medals including two gold medals. This was a very encouraging performance from a number of perspectives. There was success for both our male and female athletes and medals were won in a range of sports including swimming, cycling, weight-lifting, athletics, shooting, boxing, bowls and gymnastics. We finished fifteenth in the medals table, but Sport Wales tell me that, per head of population, we were ahead of all of the other home nations and leading the chase to overtake Australia and New Zealand.
There were some high-quality performances from our promising younger Welsh athletes, which indicates a bright future for Welsh sport. As well as those athletes building on their international profile, such as hurdler and gold medallist Dai Greene and swimmer Jazz Carling, the games also brought to the public’s attention a new generation of Welsh competitors, such as cyclist Becky James, gymnast Frankie Jones and boxer Sean McGoldrick. I should also mention someone slightly older who has a terrific record of achievement, namely, lawn bowler Robert Weale, who finally achieved a gold medal after silver and bronze in previous Commonwealth Games. I would also like to mention Non Evans who has now represented Wales in three separate sports, which is quite an achievement.
I also congratulate our Team Wales captain, Michaela Breeze, who, after gaining a silver medal for weightlifting at the games, has decided to retire from the international scene. Michaela has been an outstanding competitor. She was called into the Great Britain squad when aged only 14 and has worn the Welsh vest with pride for 18 years in top-level competition. She is a marvellous role model and an inspiration for other women in sport.
Of course, representing your country and achieving sporting success on the world stage is a great individual honour. We all recognise that our athletes’ achievements are the result of a lot of hard work and dedication. However, I know that they would be the first to acknowledge that their success is also the result of a first-class performance by Team Wales. I must, therefore, pay tribute to the governing bodies of sport in Wales and the coaches who have been instrumental in enabling our athletes to achieve their full potential. Laura McAllister and her team at Sport Wales have played a vital role and have worked closely with the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales, which was responsible for the selection and delivery of Team Wales. I know that Chris Jenkins, the chef de mission, along with president Ann Ellis and chairman Gareth John, and their support staff, worked tirelessly to ensure that our team could perform to the best of their ability.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the games, but I have enjoyed watching some televised events and some top-class Welsh performances. The closing ceremony has only just brought the games to a close but already our thoughts are turning to the future. We are a small nation with big ambitions. We want more success and we want to win medals at major events like the Olympics, Paralympics and the Commonwealth Games. We want to win world and European championships and to be known across the world for our sporting achievements. We want to be looking to Australia and New Zealand as our targets, where success is expected and everything is put in place to deliver at major championships.
Elite athletes across the globe continue to seek and attain new levels of achievement, and the standards reached in all sports are incredibly high. That means that our own standards must continue to rise if we want to remain competitive. A key element of that is having the right support structures and policies in place. Earlier this year, I launched an elite sport strategy, which provides a clear direction and ambitious targets for elite sport in Wales and a sound basis for making the best use of the resources available to us as we continue to strive to achieve excellence.
It is also vital to encourage higher levels of participation in sport, particularly among young people. Physical activity is vital to health and wellbeing throughout life, and this is reflected in Sport Wales’s ambition to get every child in Wales hooked on sport for life. Everyone has to start somewhere, and there is no doubt that some of our future elite athletes are being introduced to sport through the 5x60 or Dragon Sport programmes, the free swimming initiative or community-based activities organised by clubs and governing bodies.
Few things have the power to engage and bring together a nation like sport. The Ryder Cup was a truly spectacular event, and its successful staging in Wales made us all feel proud. We have now seen our athletes perform and achieve success at the Commonwealth Games. We must ensure that we maximise the legacy from both these events to engage the Welsh public in sport. The 2012 London Olympics and the Commonwealth Gamesin Glasgow in 2014 will soon be upon us. We must be ambitious and aim high. Our performance at the recent games demonstrates that we have an excellent platform to build upon.