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Sport Relief Still Matters 10 Years On

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The idea for Sport Relief took shape 10 years ago. Its older sibling Red Nose Day was turning over nicely, raising millions of pounds every two years to help tackle extreme poverty and social injustice. Comic Relief in the UK was looking around for a second event to fill the fallow year in order to increase the money flowing through to the world's poorest communities.

The conditions were perfect for the event - sportsmen and women were becoming ever more iconic and reaching beyond the boundaries of their chosen sports, the BBC, our main partner, was reinventing its in-house sport department and Comic Relief had a temporary team of experienced fundraisers ready to go into battle. Sport Relief sprang to life to harness the power and passion of sport to do social good.

The first event in 2002 was a kick and a scramble and raised a creditable £14 million. Elton John did the single and the video featured David Beckham. The then Prime Minister Tony Blair played a set of tennis before a surprised final day crowd on the Queen's Club Championships. In the locker room he confessed he was dreading what had become the single most terrifying thing he'd ever done. The front pages of the national press went into over drive with a storm of dreadful puns on spin.

Michael Parkinson interviewed Nelson Mandela on his passion for sport. Mandela, in turn, furnished us with a quote that summed up our purpose to perfection: 'Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way little else can... sport can create hope where there was only despair... it is an instrument for peace'. If the great man had said it then it must be true - our firmly held view had a ringing endorsement.

Since then the event has found its feet and grown dramatically. In 2004, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sir Roger Bannister running the first sub-four minute mile, we placed the Sport Relief Mile, sponsored by Sainsbury's, at the heart of the event.

This year, a major year for sport, the target is to get one million people, including schools up and down the country taking part in the mile, making it one of the biggest mass participation events ever. Witnessing the great British public coming together all over the UK to do the Mile and raise money is truly inspiring. And seeing the cash in action - that's one of the real spine tingling moments.

In 2005 on a trip to Ethiopia to visit Sport Relief funded local projects, cross-dressing comedian ofLittle Britain fame, David Walliams, happened to let slip to me that he'd been rubbish at sport at school except for swimming and that he'd always fancied trying to swim the English Channel. He'd told the wrong man - his fate was sealed. A year later, to the country's amazement, he did the swim in nine hours and sits proudly in the 50 fastest times ever.

Epic challenges have become our signature. Children's TV presenter Helen Skelton became the first woman to row the full length of the Amazon in 2010 and followed this in January this year by reaching the South Pole by bike, kite and ski, breaking records as she went. She is tiny but mighty. Next week, the comedian John Bishop will cycle from the Eiffel Tower to Calais, row the Channel and run to Trafalgar Square. Oh yes, and then there was Eddie Izzard running 43 marathons in 51 days tracing the map of the United Kingdom - what is it with cross-dressing comedians?

The last Sport Relief in 2010 raised over £44 million - a spectacular growth of 214% in a short space of time. Sports people, pop stars, comedians, presenters, politicians and even royalty have stepped up to the plate and entertained, suffered and cajoled in equal measure.

The £124 million raised since 2002 has been allocated to projects across the UK and the poorest countries of the world. It has supported the vision and passion of local leaders for delivering lasting change in the communities where they live. It's got kids off the streets, sent them to school, reunited families, counseled children suffering abuse, catalysed small businesses and driven lasting change. It's brought out the very best in people and shown that reaching out to individuals living in challenging situations to lend a helping hand really does work.

So who wins from an event like Sport Relief? In an ideal world it works for all its key stakeholders. The million milers this year will take part in an event that brings the nation together. They will run alongside fellow citizens with a strong sense of shared purpose and community. The BBC will feature the fundraising campaign and deliver great programming sprinkled with leading artists all giving their time for free. Sponsors, like Sainsbury's and BT, will have the satisfaction of knowing their crucial support helped to drive a national day of taking part and of giving.

Sport Relief will remind everyone that by joining in, people can really make a difference. It will show government and key decision makers that the public are engaged and that they do care. Finally and most crucially the beneficiaries, both here in the UK and across the world, will receive vital cash to help drive self-reliance and self-determination. And they will have the comfort of knowing that people out there do care.

Enter the Sainsbury's Sport Relief Mile at www.sportrelief.com

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