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South hits Olympics jackpot
6:00am Sunday 27th May 2012 in News
The south coast is set to receive a huge financial and sporting boost from the London Olympics, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Figures obtained reveal:
-Hampshire based companies have won multi-million-pound Olympic contracts
- Olympic and Paralympic training camps will take place in and around Southampton
- 43 schools in Southampton alone have been handed free Olympic tickets as a reward for their support of the Games
- A trickle-down effect as a result of an official Olympics contract website has boosted a number of local businesses.
One of the most impressive aspects has been how businesses from the area have beaten off competition from across the country, and in some cases across Europe, to win major contracts from the Olympics Delivery Authority.
Among the very biggest is that secured by Lakesmere Ltd, who have their headquarters in Winchester.
They won a contract worth an estimated £4m to build the iconic wave-shaped roof on the Olympic Park Aquatics Centre that will host all the diving and swimming events at the Games, being graced by Southampton’s very own Pete Waterfield.
They saw off a vast array of competition to provide 4,000 semimature trees to brighten up the Olympic Park.
On top of that, Southampton-based businesses such as Convertelite, Draper Tools, Euro Power, the Southampton Novotel, Matchtech Group and Trimline have all got work as a result of the CompeteFor website.
It was initially set up to allow companies to pitch for contracts for the London 2012 Games but has proved so popular that the powerful hub has been seen as a useful business tool and provided unexpected opportunities.
But what about the sporting side? Will Usain Bolt be training here? And what about the elite American team or the dominant Chinese?
Just two pre-Games training camps are set to take place in the Southampton area, more of which later.
However, though it may not sound a lot, hosting even these two training camps is better than many areas – including Portsmouth – can boast.
Many teams, particularly from within Europe, will simply train at home before travelling to compete.
And other nations will split up to ready themselves in specialist facilities, depending on which sport they compete in.
For example, of the Olympic and Paralympic training camps taking place in Britain, many will be held in Weymouth where the sailing events are taking place and area-specific training is required.
Contrast that with the American tennis team, who will jet in just ahead of the Games, take over an upmarket hotel in Wimbledon and then head off immediately to resume competition in various corners of the globe.
The countries travelling from further afield with serious resources, such as America and Brazil, will set themselves up in London for training camps and prepare to invade the Athletes Village that will host 17,000 competitors.
Those with a smaller budget, such as Afghanistan, Maldives and Rwanda, will have a handful of athletes in the east of England, while Namibia will go as far afield as Scotland.
Potential training camp venues were encouraged to use a specially built London 2012 Olympics portal to pitch for teams to come to the area, with takers in the form of National Olympic and Paralympic Committees offered a financial reward of up to £25,000 for booking.
Dynamo School of Gymnastics, in Hamble, offered gymnastics facilities, King Edwards VI school and The Ageas Bowl archery, Sparsholt College equestrian, The Quays diving, University of Winchester athletics, The University Boat Hard sailing and Westgate Badminton Centre, predictably, badminton.
Just two were taken up, with the world class diving facilities at The Quays snapped up by the Ukrainian diving team, who finished joint sixth in the 2008 Olympic medal table for the sport.
The Australian Paralympic dressage team have hired Sparsholt College for their pregames camp.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Paralympic sailing team will base themselves in Cowes.
But compare that to elsewhere in the region and we have done rather well.
Portsmouth have just one team visiting – the Tunisian gymnastics team – and those are the only pre-Games camps in Hampshire, with the Cayman Island athletics and swimming team, Nigeria athletics and Sweden Paraympic athletes based in Surrey but using facilities in the north of the Hampshire.
Southampton’s highest profile venue, St Mary’s stadium, never competed to take part.
There is a chance that the locally based teams will invite the public, and schools in particular, to watch them train. Whatever happens, 43 schools in Southampton alone have been given free tickets to Olympic and Paralympic events as a reward for their membership and level of engagement with the official London 2012 education programme, Get Set.
There is also building excitement about the Olympic torch relay, which is now under way and is gearing up to pass through the area.
It will pass through Southampton itself,including the home of the Saints, on July 14, though the city is not one of 22 outside of London who will host a big screen for the Games. However, Winchester have secured a so-called ‘Live Site’, boasting a big screen and picnic area outside the Cathedral throughout the Olympic and Paralympic games.
Organisers of the Games have also been keen to ensure the area doesn’t miss out in terms of cultural legacy.
The Inspire project, giving an official nod to non-commercial groups doing “something special”
in their local community, is widespread, with 32 in the immediate area alone.
These range from free swimming in Eastleigh to jazz concerts at the University of Southampton, and estimates say nationally one in six people will participate in an Inspire event.
As well as that, exhibitions at John Hansard Gallery’s city centre space and Southampton City Art Gallery, school events and Paralympic taster sessions as well as Capture the Wave, held at Solent University for children aged 11 to 16 with physical, sensory or learning difficulties, are also included.
The region looks set to reap cultural and business rewards – despite hosting none of the events.
And perhaps the biggest potential benefits remain the most difficult to measure – the encouragement of local children to take up sport and adopt healthy lifestyles.
That’s something money simply can’t buy.