Olympic bid has Eastern promise

A RALLYING call was last nightmade for the region to unite and play a proactive role in London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. East Anglia, particularly Essex and Herfordshire, could reap widespread economic and community gains if London is successful in its Olympics bid.

A RALLYING call was last nightmade for the region to unite and play a proactive role in London's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

East Anglia, particularly Essex and Herfordshire, could reap widespread economic and community gains if London is successful in its Olympics bid.

This was the message to the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) given by Stephen Castle, Essex County Council cabinet member responsible for sports development, in a presentation to the Assembly's executive, which he gave with Adam Rigarlsford, from Sport England, and Ian Phillips, from Olympics Go East.

Mr Castle, who has already had several meetings with London 2012, the organisation compiling the capital's bid to host the Olympics, is calling for regional support in becoming part of the London proposal.


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London 2012 is proposing to build an Olympic stadium and village at Stratford, in east London, and for all sporting venues to be located with a 40-minute radius.

Mr Castle, who is a board member of the East of England Development Agency and Arts East, called on the assembly to unite to try to get a share of the £2.375 billion earmarked to stage the Games.

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"London 2012 are visiting our region in the late summer. It would be helpful if we could think about how to ensure we showcase this region in its very best light for that one day visit," said Mr Castle.

"We must proactively engage the bid company at each and every opportunity. Approaching this as a region will give us the strength and the voice to be heard.

"The Games are much more than a jamboree leading to a great build-up but little legacy. They are a real opportunity to achieve many aspirations for our communities and for our region."

Two eastern sports venues are already being considered for the competition - Broxbourne on the Essex/Herts border for canoeing and Great Leighs, near Chelmsford, for equestrian events.

There are further opportunities for the region to host training camps and national teams, which could lead to economic benefits, such as in Queensland, which got a £1 million boost as a result of hosting the British team in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Existing training facilities could be improved and new ones could be built if the region can demonstrate long-term demand or use.

The Olympics could lead to regeneration, such as an improvement in the region's transport infrastructure, as Stansted has already been recognised as a "critical transport hub" and Harwich is also likely to play an important part in bringing sports people and spectators to the country.

Not only could the region argue for improved roads, but also for schemes such as the Crossrail east to west cross-London rail service to be accelerated in time for the Olympics.

The Sydney experience showed visitors to the Olympics also explore other cultural attractions, which Mr Castle said is an opportunity for the east of England to maximise and promote itself.

As well as economic benefits, Mr Castle said the Olympics could lead to improvements within the community, including education and health opportunities for children to get involved in Games-related activities.

He suggested the Games would inspire people to take up sport while a sense of community, optimism and national celebration would have a positive impact on individuals' mental health and communities' social health.

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