Region told to grasp Olympic chance

HUGE sporting and economic benefits await East Anglia thanks to Britain hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, chairman of the event's organising committee Lord Coe said last night.

By Danielle Nuttall

HUGE sporting and economic benefits await East Anglia thanks to Britain hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, chairman of the event's organising committee Lord Coe said last night.

In an exclusive interview with the East Anglian Daily Times, the twice Olympic gold medallist and 12-time world record holder said the region was likely to reap some of the greatest gains of the Games outside London.

He was speaking during a whistle-stop tour of the East of England which saw him and fellow London 2012 officials visit two of the confirmed sporting venues in the region for the Games.

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Lord Coe said: “I want East Anglia to benefit in exactly the same way as the rest of the country. There are lots of opportunities that will give young people a real chance to engage in this project.

“We've spent a lot of time in the region throughout the process and now we have won the right to host the Games, we will be spending even more time.

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“Fifty thousand people (in East Anglia) physically backed us during the bidding process. It's an area which has always understood the benefits of the Games.

“The East of England has more events than anywhere outside of London. With interest building up as we get nearer to the Games, there will be all sorts of opportunities.”

On board the specially-branded Olympic roadshow bus, Lord Coe and other officials stopped at Weald Country Park in Brentwood, Essex, yesterday, which is set to host the mountain-biking in 2012.

The visitors went on to visit Herts Young Mariners, Broxbourne - a canoeing training facility close to the site of the slalom canoeing for London 2012 - before finally arriving at Ely Cathedral to discuss the economic benefits of London 2012 with business leaders.

Lord Coe said the Nations and Regions Group, set up to co-ordinate regional activity across the UK such as preparation camps for the Olympic teams, is currently looking at East Anglia to see whether they can “tap into” some of the facilities that already exist in the area for training camps and other purposes.

“If there are world class facilities in any area, they may well offer training opportunities to coaches or teams in that period,” he said.

“They (Nations and Regions Group) will be looking at every potential venue in the East of England. But I want local facilities to be developed in response to local needs not because somebody thinks there might be the off-chance of getting an Olympic team.”

Former Tory MP and Private Secretary to Conservative leader William Hague, Lord Coe was appointed leader for London's bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games in May 2004.

The London bid was initially behind those of Madrid and favourite Paris, but Lord Coe campaigned tirelessly and performed a last-minute sprint - a hallmark of his illustrious running career - winning over the International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegates during London's final presentation in Singapore.

Lord Coe told the East Anglian Daily Times yesterday preparations were going extremely well.

“One year since the bid, we're generally a year-and-a-half ahead than every city has been at this point. But there is no moment of complacency,” he said.

He also talked about the importance of London 2012 events being as accessible as possible

“This will be a public transport Games. The transport plan we have at the moment will be dealing and coping with large numbers of people wanting to come in, particularly from the East of England,” he said.

“There will be park and ride schemes available to make it possible to get people in and out safely.”

Lord Coe, who was knighted in the New Years Honours List, said there would be many opportunities for ordinary people to become involved in the Games.

“We actually need 70,000 volunteers. They can do everything from security, venue management, working in the Olympic village,” he said.

During his final speech to the IOC in Singapore, Lord Coe touched upon his own experience as a child watching the 1968 Mexico Olympics at school, which he credited as the moment he knew he wanted to be an athlete.

“That is the experience that often attracts young people into sport,” he said.

“It's what they witness and what they see. I know that's what's happening everywhere.”

And the legendary athlete provided hope there would be many further visits in the region from himself and Olympic officials to inspire youngsters in the years ahead.

“I'm sure that we will be (visiting) over the course of six years. We have already had events in Suffolk, some of our ambassadors have visited and have been involved in school projects.”

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