Olympic bosses' rallying cry to Suffolk

OLYMPIC bosses are hoping to use the excitement of the London 2012 games to inspire more youngsters in Suffolk to take part in sport and drive down rates of childhood obesity.

Russell Claydon

OLYMPIC bosses are hoping to use the excitement of the London 2012 games to inspire more youngsters in Suffolk to take part in sport and drive down rates of childhood obesity.

Scholarships of £1,500 will be given to 12 of the country's most promising athletes each year in the build-up to the games, with the successful candidates charged with visiting schools to inspire more children to take up sport and physical activity.

The announcement was made yesterday by the Suffolk SportsAid Foundation which, along with Suffolk County Council, will select 12 athletes a year to sponsor and become sports ambassadors for the county - encouraging others to take part in and enjoy sport.

Latest figures show 28% of children in the county aged four and five and 10 and 11 are overweight or obese.

At the launch of the scheme, at Ipswich Town's Portman Road stadium, Suffolk County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said he hoped the chosen athletes could drive up participation in sport.

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“It is with great pleasure that we have decided to award scholarships to 12 people each year - £1,500 per scholarship,” he said.

“All we ask them to do in return is first of all make sure they are sponsored by the governing body of their sport, secondly train their hearts out and thirdly help us to promote sport in colleges and schools in the county so we get young people away from television sets and computer games and out on the fields getting fit and keeping healthy.

“That is what the drive behind this is all about and I am really excited about it.”

The Suffolk SportsAid Foundation was launched in December last year to raise money for the athletes, who spend on average around £5,000 a year on training and travel.

Roger Fennemore, chairman of SportsAid East, which is working in partnership with the foundation, said: “2012 has given an immense boast to sport. It has made people aware that sport matters and that we have good young people and hopefully it will make people aware that those young people need help.

“It is my ambition on a regional basis is to see the region, in particular Suffolk, on the podium in 2012.”

Bill Tancred, a double Olympian from Suffolk, who threw the discus in the games at 1968 and 1972, said: “I would like to see more people taking part in sport and having the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

Applications forms for this year's scholarships can be found on the website www.suffolksportsaid.com and must be received by July 19, with endorsement from the particular sports governing body. It is open to elite athletes under 18 or in full-time education and the selections will be announced at the beginning of September.

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