Sports venues have Olympic appeal

MORE than 25 sites in Suffolk and north Essex have been earmarked as possible training camps for teams competing at the 2012 Olympics - potentially netting the counties more than £200m.

Craig Robinson

MORE than 25 sites in Suffolk and north Essex have been earmarked as possible training camps for teams competing at the 2012 Olympics - potentially netting the counties more than £200m.

The announcement was last night welcomed by community leaders who believe the London Games are an ideal opportunity to promote the region to a global audience.

The sites, which will feature in a pre-games training camp guide to be sent to National Olympic Committees around the World, were unveiled yesterday at a press conference at the Ipswich Gymnastics Centre.

A total of 26 facilities - 11 in Suffolk and 15 in north Essex - have been chosen as potential venues, which range from local sports centres and schools to universities and major sporting arenas.

It is now up to competing teams to decide where they want to send their elite athletes in the run up to the Games.

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Olympic chiefs predict that 2012 could be worth up to £66m for Suffolk and £139m for Essex - a potential windfall that would have far reaching benefits across the region.

Chris Perks, regional director for Sports England East, said organisations now had to work hard to put the counties in the global shop window.

“It is a fantastic opportunity, not just for our sportsmen and women of the future - who will be able to see some of the World's top stars right on their door step, but also for businesses, tourism and other areas of the community.

“We want to put our local centres on the international map and say to countries: 'Why don't you come here to prepare for the Olympics because not only do we have some of the best facilities this country has to offer but we also provide a great overall package in terms of transport links, a great culture, fantastic heritage and beautiful countryside.

“However, we shouldn't just assume it will happen. Not every facility listed is likely to get an international team - there is an element of competition about it because there are only a certain number of sports organisations and they all have a choice of where to prepare.”

Charles Allen, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) nations and regions group, said: “The sports facilities are just one aspect of this - there is a whole programme of opportunities available for the people of Suffolk and Essex in business, tourism and volunteering.

“This is only the first part of a much bigger jigsaw. We want to ensure these games are everybody's games - they're not just for London.”

Olympic swimmer Karen Pickering, who trained at Crown Pools in Ipswich, was also at yesterday's announcement as part of LOCOG's Sport Advisory Group.

“This is the end of a very long process and everyone involved can feel extremely proud because they have worked exceptionally hard,” she said.

More than 600 facilities feature in the pre-games training guide, which will be published at the Beijing Games later this year.

It includes 65 potential venues in the East of England, which Olympic chiefs' claim could net the region around £600m.

Lisa Chambers, portfolio holder for economic and cultural development at Suffolk County Council, said: “The competition was extremely fierce and its fantastic news Suffolk will be represented in the guide.

“Our focus now turns to working with each of the facilities to maximise their chances of success in attracting teams to set up camp in the county.”

John Clough, director of Suffolk County Sports Partnership, said: “This is great news and confirms that there are some excellent sporting facilities in the county.

“If you consider that, in addition to these facilities, Suffolk is in the same weather cell and at the same altitude as London, has clean air and can offer an escape from the hustle and bustle it makes the county a really attractive destination for teams.”

Among the facilities listed for Suffolk are and Ipswich Gymnastics Centre, West Suffolk Athletics Arena, Ipswich Town Football Club and Felixstowe Lawn Tennis Club.

Andy Wood, head coach and manager at Ipswich Gymnastics Centre, said: “We had our fingers crossed that we would be in the guide but you never know for sure.

“We've now got to get out there and promote ourselves as an international centre. It's about the whole package - not just the facilities we can offer but also the overall service that we can provide for teams.

“So far we have had teams visit from Algeria, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland and Brazil but we're aiming to have at least one international a year here until 2012 - starting with current Olympic champions Romania in June - because the more teams we can get to experience the facility the better.”

Judy Terry, arts, culture and leisure portfolio holder at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “This is a huge boost for Ipswich. The borough council and its partners have been working very hard for many months to try to ensure the town and surrounding area takes advantage of the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.”

Brian Jones, chairman of Abbeycroft Leisure, which runs West Suffolk Athletics Arena at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre, said it was “fantastic” news the facility had been listed.

“This is clearly an exciting opportunity for everyone involved, including the local community,” he said.

List of venues in north Essex and Suffolk that are featured in the pre-games training camp guide.

Suffolk:

Alton Water Sports Centre, Stutton: Canoe/kayak flatwater

Bentwaters Park, near Woodbridge: Road cycling

Culford School, Bury St Edmunds: Archery and tennis

West Suffolk Athletics Arena, Bury St Edmunds: Athletics

Thetford Forest: Mountain bike

Felixstowe Lawn Tennis Club: Tennis

Ipswich Gymnastics Centre: Rhythmic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics

Ipswich Town Football Club: Football

Northgate Sports Centre, Ipswich: Athletics and fencing

Otley College: Equestrian

Waveney Gymnastics Centre, Lowestoft: Rhythmic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics

North Essex:

Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford: Fencing

Braintree Leisure Centre: Athletics

Chelmsford Sports and Athletic Centre: Athletics and fencing

Colchester Garrison: Archery, athletics, basketball, fencing, judo, indoor volleyball and weight lifting

Colchester Leisure World: Basketball, fencing, judo, table tennis and indoor volleyball

Essex County Cricket Club: Archery

Five Lakes Hotel, near Tiptree: Football

Great Leigh's Racecourse, Chelmsford: Equestrian

Riverside Ice and Leisure Centre, Chelmsford: Fencing, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, judo and wrestling

SD Martial Arts Centre, Colchester: Judo, taekwondo and wrestling

Chelmsford Hockey Centre: Hockey

The Felsted School: Archery

Unex Towerlands, Braintree: Equestrian

University of Essex Sports Centre: Basketball and football

Writtle College, Chelmsford: Equestrian

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