THE Olympic Games in Rio this month have offered another reminder of the important role that sport plays in our country and in our communities. It has a unique ability to bring people together, whether as participants or spectators, in pursuit of a shared goal and – usually – friendly rivalry.

The performances by Team GB athletes, and the way they have conducted themselves outside of competition, has been outstanding, and I hope that they all know just how proud we are of them and everything they have achieved.

Success has many fathers, and there has been no shortage of people trying to use the Games to make their own political points. For some people, the success of Team GB shows why we need more centrally planned economy, whilst others have argued that it demonstrates an advantage of free and open capitalist societies; the European Parliament published a medal table showing a combined medal table on top, while eurosceptics say that it shows that the UK is big and successful enough to stand on its own two feet outside of the EU.

It’s certainly the case that the National Lottery has made a huge difference to our Olympic team. Although it was controversial when it was introduced, in the 20 years that Lottery funding has been available, Britain has risen from 36th in the medal table with just one gold medal to an amazing second place with 28 golds.

But we must also remember the hidden heroes of this success, and of the sports clubs that do fantastic work here in our communities every week of the year.

Hundreds of people in Dudley give up their time – most unpaid – whether coaching our amateur sportsmen and women, or organising our sports teams and leagues.

I have had the pleasure of meeting with some of the people who make our sports clubs and activities possible, like the social entrepreneur James Bragg who works to get more people in Dudley involved in sport – many for the first time.

Four years ago, a few of these volunteers were recognised in the Olympic Torch Relay as it travelled through the Black Country, but for the small number whose work receives the recognition it deserves, there are many more who work week-in week-out – often unnoticed outside of the people who benefit from their efforts.

Without these volunteers, sports administrators and coaches within our communities, elite performances of the kind we have seen in Rio would not be possible. I want to see more of their work recognised. If you know of anybody who does amazing work for sport in Dudley, please let me know at mike@ or call 01384 913123.