Industry pays tribute to Jowell legacy

14 May 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

Dame Tessa Jowell, who played a major role in securing the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for London as culture secretary, has passed away aged 70, with tributes pouring in from the industry she had such an impact on.

Dame Tessa was diagnosed with brain cancer in May last year and died peacefully at her family home in Warwickshire on Saturday evening. 

“With Tessa’s passing over the weekend we have not just lost one of the most remarkable of politicians but one of the most powerful advocates for sport’s ability to change the world for the better and, more importantly, one of the most wonderful spirits that graced our world,” said Nick Keller, chairman, Sport Industry Group.

“Like so many others I feel a deep sense of loss. That was her impact - she had soul and warmth that I can still feel and her passion for our industry was well known. Her belief in sport for social change was unrestrained. She believed that it could change lives and used correctly create more positive outcomes for people and communities. 

“More telling was how she used her holiday time. Every year she would head to work in the field with Magic Bus - the brilliant NGO that uses sport to help disadvantaged children in India - not a photoshoot opportunity, but simply her life’s dedication to helping others.

“We both lived in Highgate and I loved the fact that in 2012 the year of the Olympics, that she had effectively brought to the country, that I would find her on the 274 bus marking up piles of documents - running the country from the bus. No fuss, simply hardworking and humble to the core.”

Sebastian Coe paid tribute to the impact of Tessa’s work in the build up to the Games via Twitter: “Tessa was not just a close friend, she was a life enhancer. Her contribution to the Olympic and Paralympic Games is easily defined - without Tessa there would have been no London 2012, and without Tessa they would not have been the success they were.”

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said she left an "enormous" legacy as "everything she touched turned to gold in some way." He and many others have since praised the campaigning she did for more NHS cancer treatments.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said she had sounded a "national call to arms" about the need to spend more on researching the causes of brain cancer. "She leaves a deep legacy with the potential to benefit many thousands of other cancer patients long into the future," he added.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a fellow Benchmark Talent client who was in the Lords to hear Dame Tessa's final speech, spoke of her passion for the Paralympics and her "amazing ability to pull people together…she really drove home the fact that the two Games had to be together."

In January, Tessa received a standing ovation in the House of Lords after delivery a moving speech on cancer care, appealing for patients to be able to trial new treatments.

David Beckham, an ambassador during the London 2012 bid, added on Instagram: “Such sad news this morning losing Dame Tessa who was a passionate and amazing woman in so many different ways and will be missed by so many.”

A former social worker, Dame Tessa headed to Westminster in 1992 as MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, and in 1997 became one of the 101 female Labour MPs on the benches following the party's landslide victory.

Dame Tessa was employment minister and minister for women, before joining the cabinet as culture secretary in 2001, during which she helped bring the Olympic Games to London.

In 2012 she was made Dame Tessa Jowell in the Birthday Honours for political and charitable services. After stepping down from the Commons at the 2015 general election, she was made Baroness Jowell of Brixton.

Prime Minister Theresa May has since confirmed the government would double investment for research into tackling the disease, to £40m. Charity Cancer Research UK has also said it is contributing £25m to the fund, known as the Dame Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Research Mission.

May added: "Baroness Tessa Jowell faced her illness with dignity and courage, and it was a privilege to host her in Downing Street recently to discuss what more we can do to tackle brain cancer.

"I hope that the actions we are taking now and in the future to improve care and research for those confronting a terrible disease will form part of the lasting legacy of an inspirational woman."