Francis Maude: ‘Join In’ with the spirit of social action

After seven years of planning, the Olympics kick off tomorrow (Friday) – the Opening Ceremony is sure to be spectacular and we have several weeks of world-class sport to enjoy.

A big part of London securing the 2012 Games was a real commitment to build on their legacy and encourage individuals and families to enjoy sport.

I am particularly excited by the legacy of social action that we’re creating through the ‘Join In’ initiative. The goal has been to harness the spirit of volunteering, that has really gripped the country, to promote and encourage community engagement. The legacy from the 1948 London Games was the Paralympics. I want ‘Join In’ to last as long. This is an ambitious aim – to create an annual event to really change how people give their time and engage in their communities.

This year’s Join In will take place over August 18-19 – the first weekend after the Olympics, when we’ll all be brimming over with enthusiasm! We want people to think about what’s available in their local community and how they can get involved. This year there is a focus on sport and so every sports club or community group is being encouraged to hold a special event over the weekend so local people can learn more.

Some 2,000 events are already registered throughout the country – with a number in the Horsham area including: Little Kickers Football Classes for Kids and Hockey with Horsham Hockey Club – both at Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre; volleyball at Horsham Beach Courts and badminton with Forest Badminton Club in Horsham.

All of our great Olympians have started at the same place – their local sports clubs. And it would be wonderful to think we could have a future footballer or badminton, volleyball or hockey player in our midst – just because they, or their parents, popped into a session during the Join in Weekend.

So, how do you get involved? If you’re interested in a new sport, start browsing joininuk.org. You can enter your contact details on the site and you’ll receive updates. If you’re already involved with a sports club, why not organise an event to let local people know what you’re about. Anything goes – sports tournaments, open days or drives for helpers. There’s a wealth of material on the Join in website to help clubs – lots of ideas, practical support and advice.

I hope readers enjoy the Games – it’s a wonderful opportunity for our country to show the world what we’re good at – organising wonderful events and, hopefully, winning medals!