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A state of the art gym in Crayford has been given the ministerial seal of approval – in time to host international Olympic volleyball champions and the hundreds of children and adults who train in gymnastics there every week.

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Sports and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson and London Mayor Boris Johnson joined the opening ceremony at the Europa Gym’s new building at Maiden Lane in Crayford.

The gym is a testament to the tenacity of coaches Len and his wife, the former Olympic gymnast Yvonne Arnold who competed in the Munich games.

The couple sold their home and are still living in the Europa gym’s other premises – a Victorian warehouse where club members muck in to do the cleaning.

The couple were determined to keep the gym going after it faced an uncertain future two years.

Mr Arnold said: “We have got a wonderful facility and the youngsters won’t have to go through what Yvonne and I did, selling our house to keep it going.”

With the backing of Bexley council the couple secured £1.24 million Lottery funding and a further £1.3 million from the Olympic Delivery Authority and £200,000 from the London mayor’s sports legacy facility fund. The new gym is gearing up to host international athletes who will use it as a base to perfect their volleyball in the run up to the Olympics.

Mr Robertson said he was very impressed by what he saw and the impact it will have on the all important games legacy to encourage people to get into sport.

He said: “If there is anybody in Bexley who is cynical about London 2012 they should get down here and put their head round the door and see people involved in sport here and soak up the atmosphere and see what it’s all about.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled a plaque at the new gym. He said: “It brings a tear to my eye.”

And he praised the dedication to sport shown by the young athletes demonstrating their sport at the gym.

“Never underestimate the power of sport to change people’s lives, to give them boundaries, to teach them about life, and discipline. It plays a serious role in teaching about how to live.”

Olympic hopeful weight lifter Zoe Smith, who lived in Abbey wood showed the guests around the gym where youngsters were demonstrating boxing, gymnastics and karate.

She trains at the Europa’s old gym in Fraser Road and said: “We’ve never had anything like this before, it’s amazing. It will be great to gets lots of kids involved in one of the sports that happens here.”

Gymnast Sophie Brundish , 18, has competed for England and is also involved in coaching children at the Europa gym.

She said: “It was cramped at the other building. This place is so open and it’s got a lot on offer.”

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