Last Friday, the 31st Olympiad kicked off with a spectacular opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. These Olympics will be a great opportunity to build on the fantastic performances of Team GB athletes at the London 2012 games, and inspire even more people to get involved in all different kinds of sport.
We can be truly proud of all Team GB athletes taking part at Rio 2016, and I will be keen to see Newent residents Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester compete in the Dressage competition. Charlotte set an Olympic Record in the Individual Dressage event on her way to a gold medal at London 2012, before joining up with Carl for the Team Dressage event, once again winning gold.
Both riders will go to Rio 2016 with the best possible support, having been funded by UK sport as a member of the World Class Performance Programme, the National Lottery initiative to support our athletes at major sporting events. With this investment, all Team GB athletes, including Charlotte and Carl, have been able to train full time with the best coaching, training facilities and medical support anywhere in the world.
London 2012 produced so many unforgettable moments, and Rio 2016 is the best opportunity we’ve had to win more medals ‘away from home’ than ever before. These games will see the largest Team GB delegation for 24 years, with ages ranging from 16 to 61, competing across 23 sports. The commitment, dedication and self-discipline of all Team GB athletes will provide fantastic role models to help capture the country’s imagination once again.
The Paralympics, which begin after the Olympics in September, will once again captivate the nation, and I am delighted that Andy Lewis, from Lydney and Piers Gilliver, from Drybrook, will be competing in Rio. Andy is the current European Triathlon champion, while Piers is a world champion in wheelchair fencing. Both athletes will go to Rio with the full support of the Government, the National Lottery and the British Paralympic Association, ensuring Andy and Piers have everything they need to perform on the world stage.
I would like to extend my best wishes to all Team GB Olympians and Paralympians over the coming two months, and I am sure they will once again do the whole country proud on the greatest stage of all.