As I write the intense efforts to provide refuge to friends and allies from Afghanistan continue. Thousands have been brought out and not only in the U.K. but throughout the West we will be making welcome families to whom we owe a great deal: people who have risked their lives to help us and their compatriots. Even as we do so huge efforts are being made to lift others out of Afghanistan. The U.K. is doing all it can to provide support which is so desperately needed but as the Defence Secretary warned at the outset there remains a real risk that not everyone can be extracted – a challenge on which the U.K. is hugely focussed.
The dreadful scenes in Kabul rightly dominate our thoughts and our attention. As a result it already seems a long time past but only two weeks ago our GB athletes celebrated their successes at the Olympics. We are reminded of their efforts again this week as our Paralympians start their own campaign in Tokyo.
65 medals, 22 of them gold, was a remarkable achievement only matched by the medal tally from the London Games in 2012. This would ordinarily be an incredible achievement, but it is even more impressive considering how many of our athletes had to adapt their training due to the pandemic. Their commitment to their sports was demonstrated and no more so than when they were training in makeshift gyms and pools during the height of the first lockdown and they should be applauded for their efforts.
They will already be focussed on the challenges of four years time when our athletes will head to the next Olympics, closer to home in Paris, with training continuing to be supported by funding from the National Lottery.
Meanwhile I wish all our Paralympians the very best, they have enjoyed a hugely successful start. The first Paralympic Games were held in 1989 and have a long U.K. connection, aside from being a fantastic competition they are a positive global force for an ever more inclusive society.
Last month I was very pleased to visit Horsham Wheels for All which gives those with additional needs the resources to ride adapted trikes and cycles. It was enormous fun with hugely enthusiastic participants and organisers. The weekly sessions provide a much-needed chance for local residents who benefit from adapted bikes to cycle in a ready-made environment. The sessions are open to all ages and abilities and after their summer break resume next week (details on HDC