The nation should rally around London as it celebrates the 2012 Olympics and promotes sports and national pride across the country, according to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.
In an interview with the Birmingham Post, Mr Burnham said there were opportunities for the whole of Britain to benefit from the games, and highlighted plans for the US Track and Field Team to set up their training camp in Birmingham.
But when it was put to him that the nation’s capital would benefit far more from the games, which will cost up to £9 billion from taxpayers and the Lottery, he said: “The games has an incredible ability to lift people. Certainly, anybody under the age of 25 doesn’t feel at all cynical about the Olympics coming to this country, and I think the older people need to remember that and not sour it with cynicism.
"I think it will be a fantastic celebration of this country and it will be good for everybody, everywhere. London is the capital city, and we all have an interest in London’s success as our capital city.”
Mr Burnham urged local authorities to get the message out to foreign Olympic teams looking for venues to train for the games.
He said: “Birmingham has secured a very major training camp. Countries are beginning to sign up. It is all about the strength of the local effort.
“Countries are there to be persuaded. It’s not going to fall in your lap – if anyone thinks that then they have another thing coming.”
He added: “There’s lots of countries coming, but some might choose to go to France for their training camp.”
The Culture Secretary said he had been impressed by the cultural facilities of the West Midlands when Gordon Brown held his Cabinet in Birmingham last month.
“When the Cabinet was in Birmingham in September I went to Birmingham Rep. I had a good discussion about the arts in the West Midlands. There’s Walsall Arts Gallery, there’s some really good projects around.”
The economic downturn should not affect spending on arts and sports, which could be a major boost to local economies, he said.
The Culture Secretary also expanded on comments he has made before, calling for more domestic players in English football teams.
He said: “One proposal that I do favour is a quota for home-grown players. I think that has merit because it makes clubs focus very directly on English talent.”
He added: “It would also reinforce the sense of local identity, which is really important.”