Hopes that at least 50 athletes from the Black Country will compete at the 2012 London Olympics have received a £670,000 cash boost.

The Sport England cash injection will be used to fund a new Black Country Sports Partnership, a special taskforce which has been set up to boost participation in sport across the area.

The partnership aims to encourage more young people into sport and support those who have the ability to perform at the highest level.

It has been challenged by the Government to increase sporting activity in the Black Country by one per cent year on year, and aims to get at least 50 athletes taking part in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.

It is estimated that around 20 per cent of the Black Country population is actively involved in sport, with a further 16 per cent described as mild enthusiasts, who could become more involved.

The Lord Mayor of Wolverhampton, Coun Phil Bateman, will lead the partnership's board with director Simon Hall.

Coun Bateman (Lab Wednesfield North) said: "One of our prime aims is to change the hearts and minds of the majority of the population and encourage them to get more active."

The partnership will initially embark on a major consultation exercise.

David Lanfear, acting regional director, Sport England West Midlands, said: "We welcome the passion and commitment from all partners involved to work towards a shared vision and to really understand what is needed to increase participation in sport."

Eleven Black Country athletes took part in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in March, bringing back four bronze and one silver medal.