From my earliest years I have always been enthralled by sport and it remains an abiding passion of mine.

I can chronicle my upbringing with reference to FA Cup Finals, crucial Ashes wickets and Olympic gold medals. Of course, at one level, sport does not matter at all. There are so many issues of far greater consequence, whether it is war, famine or climate change. The escapism of sport is best represented by pictures of soldiers in combat zones transfixed by a football match on satellite TV. But I would argue that sport does matter, and for many reasons.

Civic pride: sport forms part of our identity and can bring a community together. It would be great for Somerset if our cricketers won the Twenty20 finals on 15 August.

Fitness: participation in sport makes a big difference to improving public health.

Leadership, commitment and teamwork: children, in particular, benefit from learning how to win, and how to lose. I am a strong supporter of competitive sport.

Excellence: there is pleasure in watching someone with real talent and high-level sporting contests often contain great drama.

Sport is also big business now, employing many people. Its commercial success is of significance.

It is an exciting time for people who enjoy sport. The 2012 Olympics and the Rugby World Cup are coming to England, with the possibility of the 2018 Football World Cup to follow. They will leave indelible memories, and I hope they will also inspire millions of people, young and old, to participate in sport and enjoy its pleasures.