Suffolk has much to gain from 2012 games

SUFFOLK still has lots of hard work ahead if it is going to attract competing teams and take full advantage of the benefits from the London Olympics, it was warned last night.

Craig Robinson

SUFFOLK still has lots of hard work ahead if it is going to attract competing teams and take full advantage of the benefits from the London Olympics, it was warned last night.

Adam Baker, project manager for 2012, has just returned from a whistle-stop tour of Beijing where he spent time promoting the county to nations and potential visitors from across the globe.

The three day trip - which was paid for through a government grant and donations from businesses and individuals on the Suffolk 2012 partnership - also focused on selling the region's tourism to the Chinese market.

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The London Olympic and Paralympic Games are expected to generate nearly £70million for Suffolk and Mr Baker said during his time in Beijing he made some vital contacts with nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago.

“The aim was to promote the pre-game training facilities that Suffolk has to offer,” he said. “I managed to talk to around half of the National Olympic Committees - about 100 - as well as a number of international sports organisations.

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“Although I can't give away too much detail the response we had was extremely positive and there was some genuine interest. Most of this was from the smaller nations but one thing we will be doing now is contacting some of the larger countries to see where they stand.”

Mr Baker said that one thing that stood out during his visit was just how competitive other counties are being in promoting their facilities.

“That was really drilled home to me,” he said. “A lot of regions were extremely bullish and aggressive in their approach. Therefore it's very important that we all pull together and ensure we maximise the full benefits of the Games for Suffolk.

“That was the message before I went and now that I've been I think it's more important than ever. We obviously have some great advantages over other areas - such as our proximity to London - and I'm confident we can compete. We are ready for inquiries - if anyone comes to us and asks what we can offer then we are in a position to do so - however we can't take anything for granted.”

Another reason for the trip was to capitalise on the growing Chinese tourist market and to ensure Suffolk - and the rest of the east of England - reaped the rewards from overseas travel.

Mr Baker said: “It's amazing how many people have heard of Cambridge and that's something we tried to capitalise on. We traded on the fact we can cater for niche markets - the English countryside, Constable Country and the historic coastline.”

ON September 17 Beijing will hand the Paralympic flag to London to mark the start of the capital's four year ownership of the Games.

As the event is being held in term time Mr Baker said they were encouraging schools in Suffolk to mark the occasion in a special way.

“We really want to challenge children and to get them to take up the baton,” he said. “The 2012 Games are all about inspiring young people and it would be great to get them to take part. Hopefully teachers will respond and get their pupils involved.”

He said information packs should already have been sent out to schools but anyone who wanted more information could contact him direct on 01473 260821.

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