I hope that first readers were able to enjoy a well-earned break from council duties over the summer and spend some time with friends and family.
Like many of you, I thoroughly enjoyed a spectacular summer of sport, with the England football team’s achievement of getting to the final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years swiftly followed by the Olympics in Tokyo.
The achievements of Gareth Southgate’s men and Team GB, who came fourth in the medals table with a total of 65 medals, including 20 golds, provided a real boost to our collective morale after 18 months of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
“Gareth Southgate’s men and Team GB provided a real boost to our collective morale after 18 months of restrictions”
At the time of writing, the Paralympic Games has not yet started, but I am sure that it too will bring many more memorable moments and medal successes for Team GB.
These sporting successes, combined with the removal of pandemic restrictions, are likely to result in increased numbers of visitors to leisure centres, sports pitches, swimming pools and cycle tracks, as people are enthused to try new sports.
Among them will be aspiring footballers and potential competitors at future Olympics, but the majority will just want to participate for the fun of it, or to get a bit more active.
The challenge for all of us is to ensure that this enthusiasm is sustained in the years ahead, not just to produce the next generation of elite athletes, but also to help tackle obesity and improve the nation’s health.
Councils, of course, have a key role to play in encouraging people to get involved in sport, both competitively and for leisure, and I know that colleagues across the country are seeking to capitalise on the enthusiasm that has resulted from our successes in the Euros and at the Olympic Games.
I hope that over the coming months we can work together to foster the spirit of a great summer of sport, and encourage participation in sport and physical activity across all sectors of society.