BACK in 1964, during the build-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games, a 19- year-old boy of slight build was plucked from the bustling streets of Lahore, Pakistan.

Known to his friends as Oscar, the boy was offered a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to run with the Olympic torch.

Now, 48 years onwards, I pore over photographs and find it hard to believe that I am the boy holding the torch. It is even harder to believe that I was recently given the opportunity to hold the torch at the Welsh Assembly. This time however, my aim is to provide sporting opportunities to the people of Wales.

Sport is a fantastic way of bringing communities together. The Olympic and Paralympic Games in London present a great opportunity to boost participation in sport at all levels by fostering the enthusiasm it generates.

Wales has produced some fine sporting talent and there is no reason why we cannot continue to do so.

On that basis, I have been working hard to ensure that we raise public health, increase sports participation, improve tourism levels and attract sporting investment to Wales.

I met recently with the Chief Executive and also with the Senior Officer of Sports Wales. I was pleased to hear that Lottery funding has afforded Wales £9 million.

We discussed investing this into clubs at grassroots level, improving facilities, increasing participation in after-school clubs and how to encourage participation from people in ethnic minorities.

I have also witnessed the transformation of Llanwern High School. The pupils are benefiting from a Floodlit 3G AstroTurf, a multi-use games area, an indoor sports hall, a gym, two football pitches and a dance hall. The school can cater for a wider range of sports and pupils are more positive, focused and engaged already.

Newport County AFC uses this school as a professional base. The facilities have also proved popular with the local community. Cardiac and other groups can access classes for aerobics, kettle-bells, ballet and tap.

As a sports fan I am looking forward to the Games in 2012 with as much excitement and enthusiasm as I did in 1964.

Just like the flame, my passion for Wales and for sport will never burn out.

If anyone is interested in learning how they can benefit from a Sports Wales Grant, or if you would like assistance with an application, please call my office on 01633 220022 or email me at