Region can reap rewards from Olympics

EAST Anglia is set to reap huge financial dividends thanks to the decision to stage the 2012 Olympic Games in London.Millions of pounds will be ploughed into the Suffolk and Essex economy as tourists, athletes and sports enthusiasts take advantage of the region's close links to the capital.

EAST Anglia is set to reap huge financial dividends thanks to the decision to stage the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Millions of pounds will be ploughed into the Suffolk and Essex economy as tourists, athletes and sports enthusiasts take advantage of the region's close links to the capital.

Tourism bosses say both counties will have a real role in the preparation of the event, with many areas already setting their heart on becoming hosts for some of the Olympic teams.

Sports and recreational facilities will also undoubtedly improve as East Anglia gears up to boost its profile as a tourist destination across the globe.

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Trevor Hayward, marketing manager for the East of England Tourist Board, said: "The news is absolutely fantastic for the region and in particular tourism.

"We estimate that 50-75% of the net benefit of staging the Games will accrue to tourism and that benefit will not only be to London but the rest of the country as well.

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"Athletes will want to have training facilities before the Games so there is a good chance some of them will base themselves in our region and the visitors that come to the Games will probably want to do some sightseeing before and after which will benefit the region.

"The benefit to Sydney was about £2billion. That was the impact on the visitor economy. If we can only get a small share of that it will be a significant boost to our region."

Robert Gough, chairman of the Suffolk Tourism Partnership, said: "This is a great opportunity for us to give Suffolk greater awareness on the international stage and more importantly a boost for our businesses.

"Our close proximity to London means that visitors can enjoy a high quality experience of 'real' England yet are close enough to London to be involved in the Olympics."

Cllr Jeremy Pembroke, Suffolk County Council leader, said the county as a whole would play its part in making the 2012 the best Olympic Games ever.

"This is wonderful news for Britain, London and of course Suffolk," he said.

"Lord Coe and his team have done a fantastic job and the reaction of staff at the county council today is one of sheer delight and excitement.

"We must make sure that as a county we derive lasting benefits from these Games in terms of sport, tourism, education, culture and the Suffolk economy. We have so much to offer and now we have to get on and make it happen."

Essex County Council sports cabinet member Stephen Castle said: "I am absolutely thrilled that the London bid has been successful. The benefits for Essex from London 2012 will be staggering and will touch every part of daily life and every part of the county.

"The economy will be given a boost, not only from extra tourism but also from new business investments. The community will be given the chance to host preparation camps for athletes which will offer Essex residents and sports clubs the opportunity to practice with, support, and even adopt, international athletes.

"Imagine also the inspiration that the Games will provide for the young people of Essex. Not only will they have the opportunity to compete in their home games, they will discover new sports, have the chance to volunteer in the largest show on earth and indeed watch four weeks of wonderful sports."

James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, said: "It's fantastic news for Ipswich and the East of England. We are going to try and use Ipswich as a base for some of the teams –possibly five – to stay and use all the facilities in the Ipswich area.

"By 2012 we will have a university and even better facilities in the town."

Ipswich already has a number of prime sporting centres including Crown Pools, Northgate Sports Centre and the Piper's Vale Gymnastics Club at Gainsborough.

The lottery-funded centre is already used as an international training centre and the Romanian Olympic team trained there in preparation for last summer's Athens games.

Otley College is hoping to expand its sport and equestrian facilities over the coming years, and hopes to play a part in the Games – possibly as a preparation camp for teams.

Meanwhile, Cllr Andrew Varley, cabinet member for Arts, Leisure and Culture on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: "Not only will we have a range of top class facilities in place where athletes could train, but their example, both in the run-up to and during the Olympics, will undoubtedly enthuse a whole new generation of young people and encourage them to take up sport."

Steve Bradshaw, chief executive of Colchester United Sports Trust, said the London Olympics could inspire people to take part in sports and improve their health.

He said Olympians could be based in the town, using the planned Colchester United community stadium as a training camp.

Colchester Borough Council cabinet member for regeneration and partnerships, Robert Davidson, said: "By 2012 much of the regeneration in Colchester will be a reality. This will really put Colchester on the map with countries looking for training camp facilities for their Olympic teams.

"With a wealth of excellent sporting facilities in Colchester, for example at the Garrison and the University of Essex, and the convenience of only being 40 minutes by train from Stratford station, Colchester is sure to benefit."

Pippa Cuckson, of Great Leighs Racing, said the new racecourse under construction could be a venue for equestrian events should existing plans to hold them at Greenwich Park fall through, otherwise it could be a training camp.

Essex University is already gearing up for the London games by offering its sporting and leisure facilities as a pre-Games training camp between 2008 to 2012.

Athletes will be able to work with some of the best sports scientists in the country who could advise on anything from weight training programmes to the nutritional benefits of particular diets.

It is hoped the campus could also be used as a base for a group of athletes during the Games.

Dr Jeremy Shearman, of the university's centre for sports and exercise science, said: "The University of Essex is the closest university to the Olympic site with a centre dedicated to sports science and we are one of the best in the UK."

Pat Smith, chief executive at Business Link for Essex, said: "Sport, tourism, and business are all set to benefit. Business Link for Essex looks forward to helping small and medium sized business reap the rewards of regeneration, greater investment and better transport links that the success of the bid will bring."

West Chelmsford MP Simon Burns said: "Chelmsford is just a stone's throw from the main Olympic park in the east of London. We will directly benefit from improved sporting facilities almost directly on our doorstep; improved transport and communications links into the capital and other areas of the country; and the great number of jobs which will be created and investment which will be pumped into the eastern London region."

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