Tendring: Council makes Olympic legacy pledge

HOPES a long-term commitment to sport will help provide a home-grown medallist at the next Olympic Games have been revealed in north Essex.

After an inspiring summer of success for Team GB and the opportunity to celebrate further Paralympic triumph in the coming weeks, Tendring District Council has resolved to take full advantage of the nation’s renewed appetite for sport.

A dedicated team will now explore opportunities to develop and promote sports and facilities in the area. Council leaders met to discuss the achievements of Britain’s athletes at London 2012 and consider possibilities in the lead up to the next Games in Rio de Janeiro, agreeing to put new emphasis on encouraging participation in sport.

The new venture will include engagement with role models and investigating significant funding opportunities, while continuing to manage existing sporting need, and obligations to health and local accessibility.

Council leader Neil Stock told the cabinet he was optimistic that this year’s Olympics and Paralympics would increase participation in sports, raise personal aspirations and increase awareness of the wide range of different sports that were available in Tendring.

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He also shared his hope that a local resident would be a medal winner at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

Medal-winning athletes from Essex this summer included Chloe Rodgers, who won bronze in the hockey, sailor Saskia Clarke, who narrowly missed out on gold, and Harlow-born cyclist Laura Trott who took gold medals in the team pursuit and the Omnium.

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The county already runs a successful Team Essex Ambassadors scheme involving Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and Tendring District Council now wants to help maintain the momentum set by Britain’s medal-winners.

Brightlingsea was home to the late Olympic and world champion sailor Reg White and is just a few wards from Mersea Island, which this summer celebrated the success of local silver medalist Saskia Clark. But Tendring was left lamenting a lack of athletic achievement at the London Games.

Mr Stock said: “It goes without saying that we would love to have a medallist and see a gold letter-box in one of or towns.

“It could be said that Essex as a whole was poorly represented, when you consider Yorkshire’s boast of finishing above most countries in the medal table.

“I was once inspired by Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett to become a middle-distance runner. I was rubbish in the races but I worked my socks off and learned so much about motivation and determination. Those skills can be applied in other areas of life as we get older.

“We want to increase participation in sport. The Government has talked about investment in sporting excellence and the Big Lottery Fund is also available to community projects. We can’t expect to have a velodrome in every town but it would be fantastic to tap into that funding to build facilities.

“It will require a shift in emphasis from leisure and a change of ethos towards professional sport. I’m not suggesting closing our leisure centres but there is no reason we can’t have an Olympic pool in Tendring.”

Mr Stock said he would be considering appointing a new portfolio holder to oversee the development of sport in the district. He added that the council’s new commitment would not be performed with the sole intention of producing a medal-winner. “That is not just what we want to achieve,” he said. “It’s about more than simply five minutes of glory.

“Anthony Ogogo is a great example of someone from a coastal town. Not only has he lifted Lowestoft, but his generation will be inspired by his success.”

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