London 2012? The date may be right, but the location is misleading.
When the Olympics kicked off last week, the venue for the first event – Team GB’s 1-0 win over New Zealand in the women’s soccer – was in fact the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, capital of Wales.
Away from all the excitement in London, Wales has been enthusiastically doing its bit for the Olympics – including providing training camps for more than 1,000 athletes and support staff.
There are 32 accredited Olympic training venues in Wales. From Newport and Swansea in the south to Wrexham in the north, swimmers, boxers, cyclists, athletes and others from 21 nations have been making the most of Wales’s world class sports facilities.
The Russian canoeing team has been using Cardiff International White Water, while swimmers from Hong Kong, New Zealand and Mexico have prepared at international-standard pools in Cardiff and Swansea. The Trinidad & Tobago and Botswana teams are in Cardiff. Lesotho’s athletes are in Wrexham.
Three of Wales’s leading universities – Swansea, Cardiff and Glyndwr – are providing facilities along with a number of high schools.
“We worked extremely hard to ensure teams chose Wales as their training base,” said Wales Sports Minister Huw Lewis. “Camps such as these provide an excellent opportunity to develop sporting, educational and cultural exchanges with these countries.
“They give children and local communities the chance to learn more about other nations and provide a positive Games legacy for Wales. I’m really pleased to hear that the teams have been enjoying their stay and I hope they take away fond memories of Wales.”
Cardiff University’s involvement started as early as April when more than 100 boxers and coaches from emerging nations began arriving to take part in training programmes for the qualifying rounds for the Olympics.
Seb Coe, Chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Organising Committee, said: “Cardiff has been a great training and acclimatisation base for these emerging boxing nations to make their final preparations prior to one of the most important competitions in their sporting careers. Hosting this camp brings an economic boost and the chance to develop sporting and cultural links.”
Meanwhile, Wales has also done its bit for the Great Britain medal campaign. Both the Olympic and Paralympic GB cycling teams have been preparing at the Wales National Velodrome in Newport, one of only two facilities of its kind in Britain.
City of Newport Councillor Debbie Wilcox said: “We are delighted Team GB has used the Velodrome for their final track cycling preparation ahead of the Olympics.
“It highlights the high standard of sporting facilities we have in Newport. The 250 meter track also has a first class gym and weights room. For most of the year all these facilities are open for public use.
“The Olympics has brought a buzz of excitement to the whole of the UK.”