MANCHESTER is known for its sport, amongst other things.
With numerous great sporting figures, and not just the players of the city's football teams, there are many reasons to celebrate sport in Manchester.
"Rio Ferdinand, Sir Howard Bernstein and Sir Richard Leese are our three champions this year for all their hard work in Manchester."
One woman dedicated to celebrating sport and its benefits in her home city is former Olympian Diane Modahl. A distance athlete who has competed in four Olympic Games from 1988 to 2000, sport has played a pivotal part in Modahl's life and she is committed to showing others how positive involvement in sport can be.
"We set up in 2010 as a registered charity to help people in the North West from the most disadvantaged areas," Modahl tells me. "These people have aspirations but don't have the opportunity to make something of themselves.
"Through mentoring and support we help them to achieve their dreams and we provide them with an opportunity to do this. They have the potential to excel and achieve, whether that be in their school life, in sport or life in general. We are here to empower."
The Diane Modahl Sports Foundation uses world class athletes, coaches and mentors to show those in disadvantaged areas their potential and how much they can achieve. Using facilities available at Sports City and in places such as Trafford and Rochdale, the foundation has reached out to thousands in just four years.
"City of Champions is now in its second year and is celebrating heritage and tradition in Manchester as well as helping young people to develop and become a success.
"Manchester is instantly recognised for sport in the city and we want to shout about this from the rooftops, celebrate the impact that Manchester has had," Modahl declares. Her passion for sport and for her charity work is not just admirable, it's inspiring.
"Chris Hoy was celebrated last year, as one of the greatest Olympians in Britain it was a great opportunity. Celebrating leading figures like this raises the profile of the foundation, and more importantly, the impact our chairty has had on our city.
"As a relatively new charity we are still introducing ourselves to wider groups. Rio Ferdinand, Sir Howard Bernstein and Sir Richard Leese are our three champions this year for all their hard work in Manchester."
"Rio was top of our list as a football icon and because he understands the work we do and the impact that sport has on lives. Choosing him was a no brainer. It's even more poignant now that he has announced his retirement and he can use this to reflect upon his career. He deserves this, he's such a positive role model in Manchester, and in sport."
Rio Ferdinand thanked Modahl and her foundation for recognising his positive influence in sport: "It’s an honour to be recognised by the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation, an organisation with which I share so many values. I’ve always strived to put something back into the community and it’s fantastic to see athletes like Diane doing the same. I am thrilled to have been chosen as a recipient of this year’s City of Champions Award and to have my efforts in the city recognised."
But what about Sir Richard Leese and Sir Howard Bernstein? Neither are known for their athletic prowess.
"Sir Richard Leese and Sir Howard Bernstein are two figures we wanted to celebrate for all their hard work in helping to develop this city. After the IRA bombing in 1996 it could have sent Manchester in a very different way. But with a gritty northern nature and the work of the council, Manchester has been revived," said Modahl.
"The Commonwealth Games in 2002 in particular and the regeneration of east Manchester are the result of a forward thinking council. People might think Manchester is struggling with unemployment and housing pressures but these are problems that are being worked on by Sir Richard Leese, Sir Howard Bernstein and the council."
In receipt of his award, Sir Howard Bernstein said: "Manchester is a vibrant and diverse city and we have created so many champions in various disciplines. So it’s an honour to have been chosen against the vast pool of candidates eligible for recognition in this way."
Sir Richard Leese said: "I am thrilled to join the list of City Champions and to accept this year’s award with my colleague Sir Howard and Mr Ferdinand. We’ve each contributed to this great city in different ways and I am looking forward to celebrating that in September."
Modahl added, "Manchester is moving forward and it's something to talk about and be proud of. We have to recognise the positive and see it as a celebration."
The three new champions will be celebrated at a gala dinner held in September.
Follow the work of the Diane Modahl Sport Foundation on Twitter:@DMSF_UK
Or on Facebook here.
Or visit their website here.
Diane Modahl can be found on Twitter at: @dianemodahl
Follow Niamh Spence on Twitter at @missnspence
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