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Queen praises role of sports in Christmas message

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II praises Britons who get active in parks, pools and playing fields in her annual Christmas message to the nation.

In her festive broadcast, the 84-year-old monarch extols the role of sports in building communities, developing social skills and "providing a different perspective on life."

"In the parks of towns and cities, and on village greens up and down the country, countless thousands of people every week give up their time to participate in sport and exercise of all sorts, or simply encourage others to do so," she says in an excerpt released Friday by Buckingham Palace.

Her remarks are illustrated with footage of princes William and Harry playing soccer with a group of African orphans during a charity trip to Lesotho.

The queen enjoys riding horses on her Windsor estate, and many members of her family are keen amateur athletes. Her husband, prince Philip, his son prince Charles and Charles' sons William and Harry have all played polo.

Granddaughter Zara Phillips is a world champion equestrian, and recently announced her engagement to professional rugby player Mike Tindall. Zara's mother Princess Anne was also on the national equestrian team.

The British government recently was criticized for plans to cut funding to a school sports program. It partly rescinded the decision after an outcry from athletes and educators.

The queen has made a Christmas broadcast on radio since 1952 and on television since 1957. She writes the speeches herself, and they are one of the few occasions on which she voices her own opinion without government consultation.

This year's message was taped in the Royal Chapel at Hampton Court Palace near London, the residence of the queen's predecessor King Henry VIII.

The message will air Christmas Day on radio, television — and the royal family's YouTube channel.

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Online:

YouTube Royal Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRoyalChannel