Region could benefit from Olympic bid

By Katy Edwards and Roddy AshworthTOWNS and villages across East Anglia could reap enormous benefits should London be chosen to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

By Katy Edwards and Roddy Ashworth

TOWNS and villages across East Anglia could reap enormous benefits should London be chosen to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Business and tourism leaders across the region welcomed the Government's decision yesterday to support the London bid, which could see an Olympic stadium built at Stratford.

That would bring the main action of the Olympic and Paralympic Games within an hour's train or car journey of Ipswich and the Suffolk coast, making East Anglia an attractive base for visitors to the Games.

Some sporting events may even be held in the region. Ipswich Town has already been approached by members of the National Olympic Committee to discuss using the Portman Road stadium as a satellite venue for the XXXth Olympiad.

In a letter to the club, British Olympic Association chief executive Simon Clegg said he was keen that a bid for London should be seen as a bid for the whole of the UK.

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Ipswich Town spokesman Terry Baxter said: “We have expressed an interest in an involvement in the bid for the 2012 Olympics, but at this stage it was purely to signal that we would like to be considered.”

James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, said other facilities in the town, such as the new cycling centre in Ravenswood, could also be used.

He also stressed the potential economic benefits of having the Olympic Games on East Anglia's doorstep.

“It would be nice if some of the visitors wanted to stay in our area. They may find it more pleasant and cheaper than London,” said Mr Hehir.

A spokesman from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said the region might also be chosen to host training camps for visiting teams from abroad.

He added: “Before the Sydney games the training and acclimatisation camps brought an enormous amount of revenue to towns in outlying areas and along the Gold Coast.

“There is a chance that some could be based in East Anglia in 2012. Tourism in the region would benefit as people coming over from abroad would usually want to extend their holidays.”

Chris Mole, the Labour MP for Ipswich, said: “I was particularly keen on the potential for a number of local clubs to be able to host football competitions.

“The Sydney games demonstrated that people are prepared to travel thousands of miles to follow the teams.

“I hope this will be something that will give us a great opportunity to attract enormous numbers of visitors to London and the East of England.”

Bryony Rudkin, who takes over as leader of Suffolk County Council later this month, said the potential benefit to the county of a successful bid was an opportunity not to be missed.

She added: “This is not just about tourism, although I would hope those coming to the Games could have a very good holiday in Suffolk, but it is also about training and skills opportunities.”

Bob Feltwell, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, gave a more cautious welcome to the Government's support for the bid.

He said: “Hosting the Olympic Games for any country is obviously an honour designed to boost the local economy.

“If it does not do that, it is measured as a cost to the local economy. If we can promote the county and can handle the tourists, there could be benefits across the economy from hotels to restaurants and trains.”

Maldon and East Chelmsford Conservative MP John Whittingdale, the shadow culture, media and sport secretary, said: “We strongly believe that a London Olympic Games will bring incalculable benefits to this country in terms of investment, tourism, regeneration and most of all to British sport.”

Colchester Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell - also his party's spokesman for sport - said: “This is excellent news. I hope the UK gets it.

“Bearing in mind the games would be based in east London, there would be spin-offs into Essex and hopefully these would benefit Colchester.”

Mr Russell added Essex - under the umbrella of the county council - now needed to see what it could do to complement the London bid.

“Clearly the Olympics would have to be London-based, but there are bound to be benefits for Colchester - Britain's oldest recorded town - being less than an hour's journey from where the games are held,” he said.

Stephen Castle, Essex County Council cabinet member with responsibility for sport, said: “We wholly support this move and will play every part we can to ensure the London bid is successful and to bring the benefit of the games to Essex.

“Although we are unsure at this stage whether Essex will be able to host any of the actual events, we are still very positive to be able to host training camps and provide the training facilities This could mean massive investment in sporting facilities in our county.”

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