Essex to host 2012 Olympics event

MOUNTAIN biking competitions for the London Olympics will be held in Essex, it has been confirmed.

Roddy Ashworth

MOUNTAIN biking competitions for the London Olympics will be held in Essex, it has been confirmed.

There had been fears that the county could miss out on staging any part of the 2012 Games after plans to hold the cross-country cycling contests at South Weald, Brentwood, fell through in January.

But today the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) announced that, subject to final contractual negotiations, the bike competitions will be held at Hadleigh Farm, near Benfleet.

Before making the decision, the site was scrutinised and approved by the International Cycling Union (UCI), British Cycling (BC), the International Olympic Committee, and the British Olympic Association.

The venue covers a 550 acre site and encompasses grassland and woodland at Hadleigh Farm itself - owned by the Salvation Army - and the surrounding countryside of Hadleigh Castle Country Park.

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It features two major hill areas, separated by a valley which will create the technical climbs for the course.

The South Weald site was ruled out after Olympic standards changed, leaving it below the specifications needed to host the event.

Lord Coe, chairman of LOCOG, said: “It is testament to the hard work of everyone in involved that we have been able to confirm an alternative venue for the Mountain Biking competition only seven months after the venue change was announced.

“In Hadleigh Farm we have a world class venue for the Games with the potential for an excellent facility for elite and community use post-Games.”

Stephen Castle, Essex County Council cabinet member with responsibility for the UK Olympics said: “I am absolutely delighted Hadleigh Farm is the chosen venue for the Mountain Biking event of the London 2012 Games.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase Hadleigh and Essex to the world, to provide a real legacy both for local people and the international mountain bike community and show everyone all Essex can offer for sport, business, tourism and sustainable regeneration.”

A spokesman for the 2012 Games said that the next steps for the council and LOGOG would include a four month period of detailed planning on the course layout and an assessment of the temporary facilities required to host the event.

Work with the local community on an engagement programme will also begin and a cycling competition manager will be appointed in the autumn, the spokesman added.