Olympics to bring £324m boost

PUBLISHED: 10:53 20 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:00 23 August 2010

BOXING QUEEN: Rebecca Donnelly trains in Gravesend

BOXING QUEEN: Rebecca Donnelly trains in Gravesend

GRAVESHAM is set to benefit from more than a £300 million cash injection when the 2012 Olympics focuses the world s attention on the south east, the county s sports chief has predicted. With the London 2012 Olympic Games fast approaching preparations are

GRAVESHAM is set to benefit from more than a £300 million cash injection when the 2012 Olympics focuses the world's attention on the south east, the county's sports chief has predicted.

With the London 2012 Olympic Games fast approaching preparations are well underway to ensure Gravesham takes full advantage of the economic, sporting and cultural opportunities presented when the world's greatest sporting event comes to the UK.

Between 50 and 70 per cent of the net economic benefit of staging the Games is expected to come through tourism and the council is keen to make the most of the county's proximity to the Olympic Park.

With several training venues across Dartford and Gravesend, where Olympians will prepare for their events, north Kent is in prime position to benefit from this globally vital event.

Yesterday as the Reporter went to press the British Judo Association was due to launch the Performance Institute at the Dartford Judo Club where the GB team will train in preparation for 2012.

Chris Hespe, Kent County Council, head of Sport, Leisure and Olympics, said: "This is a huge opportunity for the whole of north Kent to promote itself to a global audience and that has got enormous benefits in terms of tourism and inward investment into the area.

"It will do amazing things for the Thames Gateway area by raising awareness worldwide. You are talking about enormous international exposure.

"It is estimated that Kent will benefit from £324million in tourism spending between 2008 and 2016 as a direct result of the Games."

Chaired by Mr Hespe and launched in May 2007, the Kent Coordinating Group for the 2012 Games is a multi-agency partnership tasked with making the most of the opportunities presented by the Games.

Preparations by KCC bosses and staff were heaped with praise when the council was named as one of only five local authorities in the UK to be awarded beacon status by Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell in March for its work relating to the London 2012 Games.

Mr Hespe said: "This is something that is not going to come again this lifetime. People will remember it for the rest of their lives and it is literally going to be held on north Kent's doorstep.

"There are obviously lots of benefits from having the Games so close. We want the Games to be used as a catalyst to achieve Kent's ambitions better and sooner."

The Games will start on July 27 2012 with more than 200 nations competing in 26 sports across 41 disciplines. Around 7.7million visitors are expected to descend on the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, over its six week running period and around four billion people are expected watch the events on TV worldwide.

The £100million Ebbsfleet International Station will also be playing a large part in north Kent's role in the Olympics. With the state-of-the-art high speed Olympic Javelin connections taking spectators to the Olympic site in less than ten minutes the station is expected to be a key transport hub.

Mr Hespe said: "There will be more than 20,000 accredited media and 20,000 non-accredited media coming to the Games. Many will be from poorer nations and won't be able to afford London prices so we want them to stay in Kent and use Ebbsfleet International Station to travel to the Games."

North Kent is no stranger to holding world class sporting events. In July 2007 the area was home to hundreds of top cyclists when the Tour de France snaked through the streets of Gravesend, Northfleet and Dartford and Mr Hespe hopes the Games will bring more top class sporting event to the county.

He said: "We have had the Tour de France in Kent, we had the UK paracyling champions a couple of weeks ago and the Archery World Cup in 2007 and are hoping to attract more major events to Kent."

Of course, the true heart of the Games is sport and as 31 potential Pre Games Training camps have been chosen in the county, including the MEAPA Gymnastics Club, Gravesend, Dartford Judo Club, Nurstead Court Equestrian Centre, Meopham, Arrow Riding School, Darenth, Brands Hatch, West Kingsdown, and Princes Park, Dartford. Mr Hespe says he is eager that representatives from around the globe make Kent their home away from home during the Games.

He said "Last year the ladies gymnastics team from the Ukraine visited MEAPA gym in Gravesend and trained alongside all of the kids. It's so inspirational for those kids. The majority of them know they are not going to end up performing for team GB but they learnt that to do anything in life well and reach the top you have got to work hard. You can't put a price on that type of lesson so having nations train in Kent is going to really important.

"There will be a feeling of the community being engaged in the Games if a team trains with the locality and we want to build on the back of nations training here with long-term sporting, educational and cultural exchanges.

"What we want to do is inspire people into new activity whether it's sport, the arts or volunteering, to try new things and for people to do things better than ever before."

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