The former PM's faith foundation is best understood, I think, as an effort to promote the continuing importance of Tony Blair in a changing world. As such, it is probably doomed to failure. But at least it has attracted a measure of interest. Less well known (at least I hadn't heard of it) is the Tony Blair Sports Foundation.
I only discovered it as a result of a small link at the bottom of the Faith Foundation website, but it seems quite jolly. Currently operating in the North East, it's mainly involved in recruiting coaches for local schools. But its aims are nothing if not ambitious:
In the run-up to the Olympics and beyond, the Foundation will increase participation in sport by young people, particularly those who are currently socially excluded – by inspiring more adults to become trained coaches; by providing access to high quality nationally-accredited training for those we recruit; and by helping to match coaches with the schools and sports clubs which need them.
For the moment, though, it is concentrating on indoor rowing, which is claimed to be "an effective method of combating childhood obesity and inactivity". Moreover:
It successfully targets those who do not take part in traditional PE programmes, including girls, the overweight, ethnic minorities and those with physical disabilities and learning difficulties. Head teachers confirm that integrating it into the curriculum enables them to fulfil OFSTED criteria. Teachers have the opportunity to develop cross curricular links with ICT, Mathematics, Science and PSHE.
This is quintessential Blair. From the list of groups supposed not to take part in "traditional" PE programmes (Ethnic minorities? So where did all our black footballers and Olympic champions come from?) to the invocation of bureaucratic box-ticking, it manages to miss the whole point of sport. "Indoor rowing" isn't really a sport at all, of course, any more than using an exercise bike has any connection with the Tour de France. The website even has a quote from Steve Redgrave admitting as much: "Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is about rowing," the multiple gold-medallist says. "It is not."
But then the Blair Faith Foundation doesn't seem to have much to do with religion, either. Rather, it's about using religion as to somehow oil the wheels of globalisation and the geopolitical shift to the (largely non-religious) Far East. Religion, says Blair (and he should know) can cause hatred and division, but
If... it becomes an instrument of peaceful co-existence, teaching people to live with difference, to treat diversity as a strength, to respect "the other", then Faith becomes an important part of making the 21st Century work.
Which is a bit like saying that if rowing ceases to be about propelling a boat down a river more quickly than the other team's boat, then it becomes an important part of achieving the government's anti-obesity targets.
Same wine, different bottles.