Eastern region can benefit from Olympics

PEOPLE in the eastern region are being urged to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the London 2012 Olympics as work continues apace on the games venues.

PEOPLE in the eastern region are being urged to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the London 2012 Olympics as work continues apace on the games venues.

One-and-a-half million people from the east of England are expected to attend the games, but as well as the chance to watch athletes competing at the highest level, the games are predicted to provide a boost for tourism and business in the East, along with opportunities for volunteering and involvement in sports and cultural events.

An economic study in 2006 by the East of England Development Agency forecast that the games could bring more than �600m to the region.

While that figure is likely to be revised by a new study taking into account the effect of the recession, London 2012 officials are still confident that the benefits of the games will be felt well beyond the capital.

“We have a real ambition in the east of England that this has to be a games that touches every part of the region,” said Stephen Castle, chairman for Nations and Regions East and a member of the London 2012 Nations and Regions Group.

“It has to be as relevant in the north of Norfolk as in Grange Hill in the borough of Epping,” he said.

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“There are already some good examples of how the games are getting more people physically active and inspiring people to get involved in arts and cultural events.

“There are opportunities for Norfolk to host visitors to the games. Norwich is only an hour-and-a-half by train from Stratford, which is very much its backyard in global terms.”

Mr Castle was speaking during a tour of Olympic Park, the vast construction site in London's East End where the games' key venues are taking shape.

They include the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium that will host both the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the games' athletics events; and the aquatics centre, which will house two 50m swimming pools and a diving pool and will be able to accommodate up to 17,500 spectators.

Also at the complex are venues for hockey, basketball and handball, seating up to a further 39,000, and a 6,000-seat velodrome that could provide the most likely setting for British gold medals.

An international press and broadcast centre will be able to host 20,000 of the world's media, and the Olympic Village will provide thousands of beds for athletes and officials.

Surveying the enormous building site, Jonathan Edwards, who won gold for Great Britain at the Sydney Olympics in the triple jump, said: “The ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) has done very well.

“It's something we can all be proud of. The eyes of the world will be on London and on the UK in 2012 and it's important we get it right.”

After the games are over, Olympic Park will move into “legacy” mode. Each venue has been specially designed so that it can be used afterwards.

Demountable seats in the Olympic Stadium will be removed to leave a 25,000-capacity venue able to host a variety of sporting, educational, cultural and community events. The handball arena will become a multi-sports venue, the velodrome and BMX track will be left for community and elite use, and the basketball arena will be dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere in the UK.

Of the 3,000 housing units that form the Olympic Village, 1,500 have already been ordered for social housing.