Get set for Olympic greatness
PUBLISHED: 12:56 01 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:06 20 February 2013
The countdown to London 2012 has started and final preparations are in hand. Several Sussex venues will be hosting Olympic teams, and they are keen to involve local residents in all the excitement of training, discovers Stephanie Temple
The countdown to this years most highly anticipated event has definitely started. With just months left until our capital puts on the show of a lifetime, there is no doubt that Olympic fever has gripped everyone, from competitors to ticket holders.
In the next few months, Sussex will become the perfect haven for visiting and local athletes who want to reach their peak condition thanks to a number of official training camps spread across the county. With Heathrow and Gatwick just a hop, step and a jump away, as well as state of the art facilities like the K2 in Crawley, the International Lawn Tennis Centre in Eastbourne and the Yellowave Beach Centre in Brighton, Sussex has opened its doors to competitors from home and abroad who are counting down the days until the race for the top of the medal table begins.
The K2 in Crawley will be welcoming the Barbadian Olympic team very soon, but in true Caribbean style, the Centres managers arent sure when the athletes will be arriving as no dates or even competitors names have been confirmed yet. As General Manager Chris Lovelock explains, this isnt unusual, Before the last Commonwealth Games, just the netball team came to the K2 and although they are true professionals on the court, there was a definite relaxed air about them. The relationship has since grown, which is why we are so fortunate as to have the entire Olympic team arriving in the spring. We are really excited about hosting them.
Business as usual
Once the athletes have descended, all the facilities will be open as usual for the members and the K2 will run as close to normal as is feasible. This is a huge deal for the local area and further afield; its amazing how much interest we have had from lots of people. We want to involve the public as much as possible and in no way exclude them. There will be lots of opportunities to watch the swimmers in the pool and see the intense training sessions on the netball courts. We also have a large number of schools visiting the centre so they can see firsthand, the incredible dedication that these elite athletes have, says Chris.
The International Lawn Tennis Centre (ILTC) at Eastbournes Devonshire Park is also an official 2012 training venue and home to the AEGON Tennis Championships every summer. Over the years, Eastbourne has seen world-famous tennis players win and lose in fantastic style at the ILTC. Sisters Serena and Venus Williams, as well as Martina Navratilova, have wowed the crowd with their grunts and impossibly fast serves and this year will be no different. The added bonus for the locals and the town this year is that after Wimbledon closes its doors, there are just twenty days left before the five Olympic Tennis competitions start. What better way to keep the aces flowing than to train in the UKs sunniest town? Coupled with the excellent sports facilities at the University of Brighton Sport Science Campus less than a mile away, the ILTC is ideally positioned to meet all the needs of teams looking to prepare for the competitions.
The Wimbledon effect
Eastbourne Council Cabinet Member for Tourism and Leisure Cllr Neil Stanley explains why he thinks the ILTC will appeal to visiting competitors: Eastbournes Tourism and Leisure team have been working hard over the past 18 months to market the destination as an official training camp to teams around the world but with players only just being confirmed, the next few months should prove crucial. A number of site visits have already taken place, including one from the Chinese team, and further visits are in the pipeline.
Beach Volleyball had the highest demand for tickets when they went on sale last year and the discipline is always one of the most popular events of the Games, with final tickets selling for a staggering 450. As host nation, the British team will receive at least one guaranteed qualification place, which is likely to go to one of the womens squad teams who are currently training hard and competing on the international FIVB circuit.
The Nivea Sun Yellowave Beach Sports Centre is Brightons only official 2012 training camp and the only permanent venue of its kind in the country. Director Katie Mintram, is hoping the Games will heighten the appeal of Beach Volleyball and attract some world-class players to the city, Were really excited to be Brightons only 2012 training camp. Were particularly hoping to attract an Olympic beach volleyball team so that all our local players get to watch some of the best players in the world. Hopefully we might even get the Wimbledon effect during the Olympics and loads of people in Sussex will take to the sand and give beach volleyball a go, just like they do in June with tennis.
The finishing line
As yet, no teams have confirmed they will be using the centre in the build up to July but many countries are still in the qualification stages so Katie and her team are not worried. Some teams have expressed an interest and visited the centre but no signatures yet. A few have said that if they do come, they would be more than happy to hold a meet and greet with local school children, which would be amazing. The centre will remain open even if we do get a team here as we want the public to feel the buzz and watch the training sessions, says Katie.
It has been 64 years since Britain last hosted the Games and now after endless hours spent bidding, building, and attracting brand sponsors, the finishing line is definitely in sight. Disappointingly, like all events that go hand in hand with hype and excitement, London 2012 will be over all too soon. Hopefully, to fill the inescapable void, Team GB will walk away with the biggest medal haul in its history. Well just have to wait and see.