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SPORT is the theme of this year's Local Newspaper Week , to promote community sport and budding Olympic athletes. Today features editor TRACEY SPARLING launches a week-long series.

SPORT is the theme of this year's Local Newspaper Week , to promote community sport and budding Olympic athletes. Today features editor TRACEY SPARLING launches a week-long series.

FROM the heights of glory, to the depths of despair, the spirit of sport can capture our hearts and change our lives for the better.

The opportunities that sport can bring, is the theme of local Newspaper Week which is run by the Newspaper Society in May each year, and gives newspapers across the country the chance to celebrate their community role.

Alongside our daily sports pages, following the local arena including Ipswich Town Football Club and Ipswich Witches on the speedway circuit, one highlight is our unique junior sports supplement called GrassRoots.

It comes free with your paper every Monday, packed with action photographs, tips on how to be healthy and try new sports, and inspirational success stories about young people of all abilities.

We also continue to support Sport England's project called Everyday Sport which aims to get us all building extra activity in to our daily lives. Our features have included challenging ten readers from all walks of life to wear a stepcounter for a week - the winner was a refuse collector walking miles every day. We also followed a competition for council staff to climb stairs instead of taking the lift every day, to the equivalent of the height of Mount Everest.

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Our Spring Into Summer fun fitness programme is in to its second half, with new sports for the squad of 20 readers - who would hate to sign up for a gym- to try every week.

Ipswich is also gearing up to benefit from the 2012 Olympics, just a train ride away from the capital.

We also have a huge new fitness project planned for the summer, which is due to be launched soon - watch this space.

Lynne Anderson, communications director of the Newspaper Society, said: "This week is an important part of the regional press calendar, because it is the one time when the industry gets the chance to remind readers about the great work it does throughout the year.

“Regional newspapers are read by 83per cent of UK adults, and are an essential contributor to regional identity. In short, the regional press is the first point of contact for many people wanting to keep in touch with what's going on locally."

For the second year running, the Week has linked up with The National Lottery, which has invested more than £3 billion into sport in the UK since launching in 1994 - from schools, community clubs and local facilities, right through to elite performance athletes.

Dianne Thompson, chief executive of operator Camelot said: "The sporting theme of Local Newspaper Week 2006 is a natural fit with The National Lottery, and is a chance to highlight the significant contribution that people from all over the UK have made to sport through playing lottery games - those same people who also contribute to the enduring popularity of the regional press."

Other supporters of the week are:

Prime Minister Tony Blair said:

"We are very fortunate in this country in having a strong and vibrant local press. For good local newspapers have a crucial role in maintaining and building strong communities. By informing their readers and campaigning on their behalf, they are a vital part of a healthy democracy and a vital part of our national life."

David Miliband, minister of state for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said: "Local newspapers are a crucial way of getting in touch with people about the issues that really matter to them - and they are widely trusted by their readers. They're also a great forum for local debate.

"It's vital for politicians to talk to the local press as much as possible."

Author Jilly Cooper said:

"They're fantastic the regional press, they're all phenomenal. There are so many issues like schools that they speak out about tigerishly. One feels so protected. You feel you're very looked after by the local press round here. They're fun too, fun to read. They're terrific."

Actor Colin Baker said:

"Actors perhaps have more experience of local newspapers than anyone who does not actually work for one. When on tour local papers are indispensable in terms of both publicising a play in advance of arrival and then reviewing it and (hopefully) thereby persuading more people to come and join the audience! Over three decades, I have probably benefited from the (mainly) positive publicity afforded by more than a hundred different local newspapers. And local papers are the only real source of information about local affairs, unlike national events which are reported in detail by a variety of media from television to the internet. I have been very proud to contribute a column to my local paper The Bucks Free Press every week for the last ten years."

Lee Westwood - Ryder Cup golfer: “I'm away a lot and the only way I can keep up to date with all the local golf news is through my local paper. They have supported me, and golf in general, ever since I started winning as a junior and they've always been very fair.”

“I trust them as they don't misquote me and make stories up, unlike a few I could mention.”

Dame Kelly Holmes (MBE), double Olympic champion:

"Local papers are an important part of our regional identity. If you're away from home, which for me could be on the other side of the world for months at a time, picking up the local paper is the quickest way to catch up on what's been going on at home. And, because the local press has been with me throughout my career, I know that the people back home are being kept up-to-date and are rooting for me to succeed.

"My local papers gave fantastic coverage of my success both during and after the Olympic Games and have followed everything I have done since. The awesome turn out for my welcome home ceremony was helped by my local paper's campaign - the regional press is quite a force to be reckoned with."

John Reynolds - three times British Superbike champion: “The local Press have been brilliant throughout my career. Motorcycling has spent some time in the doldrums in the past, but with the help of the local - and national - Press, we've managed to turn it into one of the most popular sports in the country.”

N What do you think of The Evening Star as your local paper - and its sport coverage? Or tell us your sporting story.

Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

N

Weblink: www.newspapersoc.org.uk

The Newspaper Society, the voice of Britain's regional and local press, represents over 1,300 daily and weekly, paid-for and free, newspaper titles in the UK.

A sponsorship scheme has invested £337,758 in sport for young people in East Anglia over the past year - including a £3,336 grant to gymnastics in Ipswich.

The Sportsmatch funding at Piper's Vale gymnastics centre, supported by Bellway Homes will benefit 1,100 local gymnasts who take part in the centre's new gymnastics development programme. Sportsmatch encourages companies and sporting bodies to forge partnerships, which develop community sport programmes, particularly for young people. Five thousand companies in England have followed this route so far.

Since its beginning in 1992, Sportsmatch has supported 577 schemes in the East Anglian region and encouraged £3,593,363 of corporate spend. The main sports that are receiving investment include football, cricket, rugby union, with multisport schemes also proving to be popular.

Mike Reynolds, director of Sportsmatch said: “The level of investment in grass roots sport is high in East Anglia but we are expecting an increase in applications in the region as sponsors capitalise on current enthusiasm for sport following the successful 2012 London Olympic bid. This success is going to have a major impact on grass roots sport, with the young children of today being the potential stars of the future, so it's vital we give them the support they need.”

Weblink: www.sportsmatch.co.uk

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