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London 2012 - Inspiring Young People Around the World

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When most people think about London 2012, it's often about issues such as transport, security or the elite athletes themselves.

But there is a side to the Games that can often be overlooked. Sport has the power to change lives and empower young people. Sport can bring schools and communities together, promote a healthy lifestyle and give young people an incentive to attend school regularly.

It was for these reasons that I became an ambassador for International Inspiration - London 2012's international sports legacy programme - in 2009. The programme has enriched the lives of more than 12 million children and young people in 20 countries around the world by providing better access to high-quality and inclusive physical education, sport and play. The programme is delivered in countries from Azerbaijan to Zambia by a unique partnership of organisations including UNICEF, the British Council and UK Sport.

To highlight the success of the programme, I was one of six current and former athletes photographed by world-famous photographer Rankin, for a special exhibition at the Museum of London.

Inspired by Sport opens on Wednesday 2 May and features photographs of LOCOG Chair Seb Coe, Olympic gold-medallist Denise Lewis, Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson and Olympic hopefuls Louise Hazel and James Ellington. And of course there is a photo in there of me as well! These photographs were set up to convey the inspirational power of sport and they feature alongside 21 further images - taken by a host of international photographers - of young people around the world whose lives have been touched by the programme and inspired by sport.

Each photograph demonstrates how International Inspiration is harnessing the power of inclusive physical education, sport and play to address issues that affect children and young people, such as gender equality, gang violence, lack of educational opportunities, life skills development, HIV/AIDS education and intercultural awareness.

Support from athletes

Football superstar David Beckham, 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius, rowing legend Matthew Pinsent and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis were just a few of the international sports stars who joined me in throwing their support behind the programme by taking part in a short film to raise awareness of the exhibition.

You can watch the film here.

Sport is the greatest passion in my life and has played such an important role in shaping me in to the person that I am today. It has given me discipline, focus and the confidence to believe in myself. Every child has the right to play, learn and grow, whatever their background, and International Inspiration is helping some of the millions who would otherwise miss out on this vital part of their development.

I've seen first-hand the impact International Inspiration is having on young people in Trinidad and Tobago, when I visited schools there in November 2010. I lost count of the number of young people I met who were benefiting from the programme and embracing sport.

The programme differs from country to country, and in Trinidad and Tobago its focus is on engaging young people in sport and after school activity so that they have the opportunity to channel their energy positively rather than hanging out in the streets where they can be drawn into things like gang crime.

If you had any doubt that London 2012 is truly having a positive impact on the lives of millions of young people, both in the UK and around the world, I'd encourage you to check out the Inspired by Sport exhibition for yourself. It's a legacy we can all be proud of.

Inspired by Sport runs from 2-13 May 2012 and entry is FREE.

www.museumoflondon.org.uk

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