Parliamentary olympians remember their sporting glories

Your starter for ten: what links a former leader of the Liberal Democrats to Olympic gold medallist Lynn "the leap" Davies?

There was a clue in the question. Sir Menzies Campbell and Lynn Davies were members of the 4 x 100m relay team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Image caption David Cornock: Parliamentary correspondent... and now an Olympic Park volunteer

Sir Ming, as he is known, is one of 10 parliamentarians who have taken part in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Six of the surviving seven athletes (Lord Coe's a bit busy at the moment) have been talking to me for a BBC Parliament programme tonight.

Sir Ming recalls his years as the fastest man in Britain, helped by his mother's secret pre-race recipe: "Switched eggs with hot milk, a dash of nutmeg, and, believe it or not, a small shot of brandy."

Colin Moynihan, who refined his coxing skills while at school in Monmouth, tells the programme how his political career was almost strangled at birth by his defiance of the Thatcher government's call for a boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow. He received letters telling him to forget any hope he had of entering parliament - although Mrs T later forgave him sufficiently to make him her sports minister.

Now chairman of the British Olympic Association, Lord Moynihan views his silver medal as "the icing on the cake" but says if he had to choose between government and sporting glory then politics would come first.

His fellow parliamentary olympians agreed - perhaps the drive that helped them win on the field of play enabled them to succeed in the equally competitve political arena.

Even Tanni Grey-Thompson, who's won more paralympic gold medals than any other athlete, said she found life in the Lords more satisfying.

Another Tory peer, Lord Glentoran - once a Welsh affairs spokesman - reveals the pivotal role played by Lord Lucan (yes, that one) on his journey to bobsleigh gold at the Innsbruck winter Olympics of 1964.

The suggestion that what matters is not the winning, but the taking part gets short shrift from this highly-competitive group. The founding father of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Courbertin, may be spinning in his grave to hear Lord Glentoran tell the programme: "Once I got in there I just wanted to win. To hell with the taking part."

But for those of us without olympian sporting talent, it really is the taking part that counts. I shall be spending London 2012 in uniform, working as an unpaid volunteer at the Olympic Park.

We "games makers" have apparently been assigned to roles according to our "skills, availability and - where possible, our preferences".

So you may not be surprised to learn that I will be working in the mascot team, helping Wenlock carry out official duties.

As Siobhan Sharpe of Perfect Curve might put it: waytogo!