Monday, August 18, 2008

Elite Sport in Basildon

Everyone is revelling in the success of our Olympic team after a magnificent weekend's competition. One can only extend congratulations and acknowledge the hard work of the athletes, coaches, organisers and support staff who have pushed Great Britain to number three in the medal table and given us all so many unforgettable images and memories. But looking at those proud, happy faces standing on the podiums to see their flag being raised I just think how good it would be if one of the gold medal winners was from Basildon, or Billericay, or Wickford, or Pitsea, or Laindon or one of our other communities here in Basildon District. Unfortunately, we have had a historic problem with that. You see our local Labour party had this thing about competitive sport: they didn't like it. Winners and losers offended their sense of equality, espcially winners who achieved at the highest level. So, our sporting infrastructure was designed specifically not to support competition, with small sports centres that are unsuitable for organised events, and a swimming pool deliberately designed to be just too short to meet competition standard. By the way when I tell that to people they usually assume I am making that up, but sadly it is true. If you don't believe me get down to Gloucester Park pool with a tape measure and you will find it is just short of the 25m length that would support competition.

Well, the Conservatives have a different approach. We want sport for all, and that means elite sport just as much as casual lesiure usage. So, we are progressively renewing our sporting infrastructure, will relaid all-weather pitches. New competition standard netball courts, an Athletic track brought up to AAA standard, and, of course, a brand new sporting village with a 50m, Olympic-size, pool. To be fair to the Labour Party today, they have shed their virulent hatred of excellence, though they still display occasional grumpiness with the whole sporting agenda. It's a pity that we lost a generation of potential elite sportsmen and women before they got with the program.

Maybe it could have been a Basildon boy or girl standing there with gold around their neck...?

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