As the UK celebrates One Year to Go to the 2012 Olympics, Prime Minister David Cameron praised the progress made to get the Games up and running. (Wed July 27)
Mr Cameron, visiting the beach volleyball site in London said, ‘Normally you would be asking me, with a year to go, about strikes, why the swimming pool is leaking and the velodrome isn’t built. But we’re in this good position of facilities being completed a year in advance. We are in the position to test and make sure everything is pitch perfect.’
Olympic fever is breaking out across the country and notably in Leicestershire. Loughborough University is the official training HQ for Team GB and for the Japanese Olympic Team. Many Loughborough students and graduates are Olympic contenders, including Richard Smith, the England and GB hockey international, canoeist Matt Sollars, hurdler Nathan Woodward and record-breaking swimmer, Laurent Carnol.
The English Institute of Sport High Performance Centre based at the University provides a full range of support services including physiology, physiotherapy and sports medicine.
Last weekend 1948 Olympian cyclist Tommy Godwin visited Loughborough College along with future Olympic and Paralympics hopefuls as part of ‘Honour the past and look to the future’ campaign. Participants had the opportunity to try out Olympic and Paralympics sports and pose for photographs with the London 1948 Olympic torch. The college has joined the British Heart Foundation in the Flames: Lighting the way programme, which is encouraging people to take part in physical activities.
Leicester entrepreneur Vic Sethi of Anand International and Daewoo International (Europe), Official Partners of the Somali Olympic team, said: ‘We’re really excited. We’ve got three more athletes from Somalia training now in Addis Ababa and we’re working towards a major competition in Dubai in October.
‘That will set them up and we hope to be winning a few medals at the Olympics next year.’
A Leicester student will be representing India at fencing at London 2012. Gaurav Gupta was born in the UK and fences for the University of Leicester but has opted to represent India so that he can carry on studying full-time.
He said, ‘I want to go into investment banking and if I was fencing for England I’d have to give up studying this year because all England athletes have to be full-time. India is providing great support but it will be very strange to be competing against my friends.’
The Prime Minister says that he is delighted to have an excellent view of the beach volleyball in Horse Guards Parade from his Downing Street home. This last week the business of government has been competing against a backdrop of hammering from scaffolders as they erect the arena for the beach volleyball test event.
‘I could hear the banging yesterday as they were putting up the temporary stadium outside my bedroom, so I was watching all that,” said Mr Cameron. He added that he is keen to watch the competition from Number 10 but his neighbour at Number 11, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is even luckier:
‘I’m not going to cut down the trees at Number 10 so I can get a better view, though there is an enormous temptation. George Osborne has got the better view so he may let me into his flat for the night.’
He said he is ‘enormously excited and very privileged’ that the 500-acre Olympic park is transforming the East End of London. But the two main challenges of transport and security for the event remain and event organisers LOCOG (The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympics Games) say it is not ideal that Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and counter-terrorism chief John Yates resigned last week amid the phone hacking scandal. Mr Yates will be replaced by Cressida Dick.
Mr Cameron said, ‘There have been some changes at the Met but we are not going to skip a beat in terms of being on the security challenges and I do think we have a good set-up for dealing with terrorism.
‘I have spent a lot of time looking at potential threats that are connected with London but not particularly the Olympics. It is a complex threat picture. We have increased the number of armed police, particularly around Tube stations; we are sorting out problems.’
Preparations are not only about sport. Leicestershire artist Shauna Richardson received £500,000 from the Arts Council to make three hand-crocheted lions to be displayed in the East Midlands as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
The De Montfort University graduate is using a tonne of wool to make the 30-foot high sculptures. She says the lions are based on the coat of arms held by Richard the Lionheart, who had a strong connection with the region and whose ransom from prison in Switzerland was paid in wool. The two completed lions are presently touring the East Midlands in a glass lorry.
The medal designs will be released shortly and the new Olympic torch, which is being described as a novelty cigarette lighter, will be visiting Leicester on July 2, 2012 as part of its UK-wide tour.