Matt Hancock – 2018 Speech at Commonwealth Sports Breakfast

Matt Hancock

Below is the text of the speech made by Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, on 20 April 2018.

Your Royal Highness, your excellencies, lords, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a real pleasure to be here to celebrate the Commonwealth, which is as relevant and important today as it has ever been.

The Commonwealth is an enduring bond that exists between us all and stands for our shared belief in the beacons of democracy and freedom.

The phenomenal Gold Coast Games showed the strength of this connection and the powerful role of sport in bringing people together.

Over the past two weeks we have seen world-class sport, enthusiastic crowds and a record number of Commonwealth nations celebrating medals.

And it was wonderful to see so many success stories from the Home Nations.

Duncan Scott’s six medal haul in the swimming pool. Northern Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan on the Pommel Horse.

Hollie Arnold making Wales proud with her World Record Javelin throw to win Gold.

And Team England’s last-minute victory in the Netball – I’m thrilled to welcome Eboni and Kadeen here today from that gold winning team.

You may think that this is a joke but Kadeen and I are actually going to play netball right after this breakfast. I haven’t played netball for twenty years and I was inspired to get back onto the pitch by your performance.

Just as the Gold Coast Games has brought people together, this Breakfast gives us a real opportunity to come together and reflect on how we can spread the benefits of sport far and wide.

Sport as a social good
Sport is a social good. It brings us together. It can improve physical and mental health, provide valuable leadership skills and promote social integration.

It is also an important way of promoting equality, through giving the spotlight to positive role models for under-represented groups.

I have always loved watching para-sports, especially as Owen Pick, one of England’s promising para-athletes, hails from my constituency.

I am thrilled by this year’s largest ever para-sport programme, a shining example of the diversity of the Commonwealth sports movement.

But for sport to remain a social good we need to make sure it is open to all.

What a fantastic opportunity today to reaffirm our commitment to casting aside barriers to taking part in the sports we love.

Louise – you outlined the important work the CGF has been doing in this area.

We need to maintain this focus. And we need to keep sharing information and knowledge across the Commonwealth on how to use sport to bring people together.

So that everybody can have the opportunity to represent their nation on the global stage.

Sport reflects our common values
Sport at its best is a reflection of our common values.

In the past six years we have welcomed the world to the UK for some enthralling events.

For the Olympics, the Paralympics, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Scotland, the Rugby Union World Cup, the Rugby League World Cup, the Athletics World Championships and many more.

All of these successful and memorable events had something in common. They showed our nation at its best. Welcoming, open and enthusiastic host cities and exhilarating celebrations of talent from across the world.

And this will be the case in Birmingham too, when it gets the chance to tell its story in 2022.

Birmingham is England’s most diverse city outside London, reflecting the kaleidoscope of cultures that can be found across the Commonwealth.

And believe it or not Birmingham is one of the youngest cities in Europe, at a time when 60 per cent of the Commonwealth is aged 30 or under.

And as we saw at Birmingham’s brilliant handover performance on Sunday, youth engagement will be a major theme of the Birmingham Games.

The Games will aim to promote young people on the world stage – whether they are athletes, performers or volunteers.

Because sport reflects our common future. And the Birmingham Games is about the future too.

It’s about a bright future for the region, and the nation, as a first class destination for education, tourism and trade.

The Games will boost regeneration in the area, with exciting plans being developed for new housing projects and a lasting legacy for culture and sport.

And it will drive an outstanding cultural programme, reaching out to the Commonwealth whilst telling the story of one of its most vibrant cities.

Sporting events aren’t just about what takes places on the pitch, the track or in the pool. They also present a fantastic opportunity to spark new trade relationships and forge new trade deals.

We are committed to building strong and enduring trading partnerships with our friends across the Commonwealth.

As part of this mission, there will be a trade Expo before the Birmingham Games and a four year programme to build business links with Commonwealth nations.

The Expo, and the Commonwealth Games, will be an important milestone in the rich and colorful history of Birmingham.

This is Birmingham’s chance. To show its place as the heart and the soul of the Commonwealth, as it brings together athletes and supporters from across the world.

Not just for the Games, but also for a wider mission. Promoting the power of sport to help change lives for the better.

And making sure we give everyone the opportunity and inspiration to go for gold, across the whole Commonwealth of our nations.