The Minister for Sports, Gerry Sutcliffe, was impressed by the University of Lincoln’s sports facilities when he visited the city on February 26 to take a tour. Following a working lunch with some of Lincolnshire’s partner organisations involved in delivering sports across the county, Mr. Sutcliffe paid a visit to the University’s Human Performance Centre.

Gerry Sutcliffe at the University of Lincoln’s Human Performance Centre.

Speaking of the facilities he saw, Mr. Sutcliffe claimed “the equipment they use is equally the same equipment that they use at the English Institute of Sport, in Manchester… I think what we’ve got to try and do is ensure that people become aware of the quality of facilities in places like Lincoln.”

He added, “gone are the days when people will play on muddy pitches or when the changing rooms are not up to standard. So everything that we’ve got to try and do now in sport has got to be quality, and that’s what I’m seeing as I come around here.”

Mr. Sutcliffe was then taken to the Riseholme campus to tour the equestrian facilities, where he also watched a demonstration by Lincoln student Sophie Wells, a Paralympic dressage rider who has just won an able-bodied junior international championship. Speaking on the Olympics, the Sports Minister played-up the pros that they will bring in spite of the great cost involved.

He said “It is a lot of money, but…we already saw the benefits of Beijing in the Olympics and Paralympics, what that meant to the nation in terms of feel-good factor…we think that while the games are in London, we want the whole of the UK to benefit and so we’re talking about sports legacy… So, yes there’s a physical regeneration of London, but sports development with flow from that. I think when 2012 comes, people won’t be arguing about how much we spent, it will be about the success of the games and the impact it’s had on sport right the way through”.

Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, speaking to the press during his visit to Lincoln.

Mr. Sutcliffe emphasised that it isn’t just about the Olympics but about a “decade of sport” where every year for the next ten years there is a major, world sporting event being held in the UK. He said that he hoped this would “act as a spur to young people” alongside plans to increase school sports. He believes “sport gives us the opportunity to develop in so many ways. There’s self-esteem, teamwork, health benefits and education benefits. So, I would argue that there’s never been a better time to be involved in sport.”

The Sports Minister also spoke about the diversity of sports on offer nowadays; “The traditional stereotype in school was that if you were a boy you played football, cricket and rugby. If you were a girl it was netball and hockey. There are a range of sports now, again on the success of the Olympics, such as rowing, sailing, mountaineering…and [the plan] is really to [offer] up opportunities.”

However, Mr. Sutcliffe expressed an underlying concern about the health of the nation; “one of the big fears for the government is that the obesity figures, if nothing happens soon, by 2050 sixty percent of the UK will be clinically obese.”