Kent and the Olympics countdown
With the Olympics and Paralympics likely to only come to the UK once in our lifetime, now is the time as a county to make the most of this very special event. In the first of a new series, we bring you up to date with Kent's vital role in 2012
Kent and the Olympics countdown
With the Olympics and Paralympics likely to only come to the UK once in our lifetime, now is the time as a county to make the most of this very special event. In the first of a new series, we bring you up to date with Kent’s vital role in 2012
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know the Olympics and Paralympics are coming to this country in just two years time.
We’ve seen the impressive ceremonies and nail-biting competitions of previous Games on our TV screens, and for the first time in a staggering 62 years we have the chance to be at the Games on our own home turf.
The last Games in this country were in 1948. London had stepped in to host the event after the Second World War and thousands of Kent residents lined the streets to watch the torch relay on its way to the capital. It was brought ashore at Dover on HMS Bicester and was carried through Canterbury, Charing and Maidstone before continuing its journey to Wembley.
As we approach the 2012 Games, it will be difficult not to get swept up in the excitement of what is being described as “the greatest show on Earth” and many of us, along with half of the world’s population, will be tuning in to watch.
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So how is Kent making sure it is getting a piece of the action? Back in 2005, Kent County Council brought together people and organisations from the worlds of sport, tourism, volunteering, transport, business, and the arts, as well as those from schools, district and borough councils to plan how Kent could make the most of the 2012 Games for both the short-term and long-term benefit.
THE STORY SO FAR
Kent School Games
Probably the largest competitive school sport event in Europe, more than 30,000 from schools across Kent compete against those from other districts in 38 different sports for the chance to be named Kent School Games champions.
It gives children the taste of their own Olympics and Paralympics and has now been adopted by the Government for rolling out nationally as a model for delivering a potential legacy for sport from the London 2012 Games.
My Kent Big Weekend
Kent’s Big Day Out has become so popular it’s expanded to become the Kent Big Weekend Out in 2011. Held over the weekend of 26 and 27 March, it gives free tickets to local people to explore where they live. Last year’s event on 27 March offered nearly 19,000 tickets to 128 attractions such as National Trust properties, sports centres, country parks and ‘experience’ days. Not only is it a great way to enjoy tourist attractions in the county but the Kent Big Weekend Out promotes tourism in Kent and celebrates what’s on offer.
Kent eVent Team
Following the Tour de France, it was decided that a team of volunteers available for one-off events was needed. More than 1, 300 people have so far signed up to be available to support community, cultural and sporting events and the hope is many will also volunteer for the London Games.
More than 130 Kent businesses have won direct contracts to supply services needed for the Games, bringing tens of millions of pounds into the Kent economy. These include SJW Civil Engineering from Sittingbourne, who provided the foundation work for the Olympic basketball arena, Dartford’s Select Plant Hire, which has worked on the Aquatics Centre, and Willerby from Tunbridge Wells who carried out landscaping at the Olympic Stadium.
Hundreds more Kent businesses are also in the supply chains, supplying a range of services from construction materials and electrics to sports clothing, catering and pest control.
Some of Kent’s own talented athletes are hoping to be selected for Great Britain to compete in 2012, which is a chance for the whole county to get behind them and cheer them onto success.
Will Bayley, 22, from Tunbridge Wells is ranked third in the world in Paralympic table tennis and was the first Kent athlete to be picked for Team GB to compete at Beijing.
Other top stars in the county include shooter Nathan Milgate from Herne Bay who is ranked number one on the world, while gymnast Keziah Gore has been winning international medals since 2005 and Dover’s Hannah Moon is already the UK’s top rower.
Host to international teams
Kent will also play host to international teams coming from countries including Belarus, Ukraine, Slovenia and now as far afield as Australia, all of whom will be staying in Kent and training at local venues, including Tonbridge School and Pegasus Gymnastics Club’s facilities in Maidstone, before they travel to London to compete.
The most recent signing at Tonbridge School saw representatives from Athletics Australia coming to West Kent to celebrate signing an agreement to stay and train in the town.
Eric Hollingsworth from Athletics Australia commented: “Tonbridge is the perfect base for us to hone our final preparations as we go to battle with the world. The facilities are world class and it’s just 40 minutes from London. We want to ensure our athletes have everything they need before stepping on to the world stage.”
Kent is proud to have 36 potential Olympic and eight potential Paralympic venues suitable for international athletes to train at, more than any other county in the UK. Those that meet the tough criteria include the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford, Canterbury High School, Fowlmead Country Park in Deal and the Dartford Judo Centre, which has been named the official training centre for countries bringing judo teams over to the London 2012 games – and there is confidence that more countries will choose to train here too.
Considering, the Olympics and Paralympics are likely to only come to this country once in our lifetime, now’s the time, as individuals, as communities, as a county, to make the very most of this very special event and make sure we generate the memories, and the legacy, that will last in our county a lifetime.
GET IN TOUCH To find out more about what is happening in Kent, go to www.kentsport.org/london2012
Event organisers needing volunteers or anyone keen to join the Kent Event Team should go to www.kenteventteam.org.uk