Suffolk town to host 2012 Olympic team

A SUFFOLK town will host a team as they bid for glory in the London 2012 Olympics, it has been revealed.

Jonathan Schofield

BURY St Edmunds has been chosen to host an international Olympic team for the London 2012 Games.

Athletes from the Rwanda Olympic Team will take up residence in the town before making their final preparations at the West Suffolk Athletics Arena.

Beraho Ignace, president of the central African nation's Olympic Committee, made the announcement in a letter to Warren Smyth, manager of Abbeycroft Leisure, describing the decision to choose Bury as “wonderful” and the beginning of a lasting legacy between the town and Rwanda.

He said: “It is with great pleasure that I announce the Rwanda Olympic Committee and Rwanda Paralympic Committee have endorsed Bury St Edmunds as our hosts for the London 2012 Pre-Games training programme.

“The Rwanda teams for both games see this as a brilliant opportunity to create meaningful community driven programmes, long term educational links, and in turn hope that the people of Bury adopt Rwanda as their second team for the 2012 Olympic Games.”

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The Rwanda team took four athletes to the Beijing Olympics but are expected to bring up to four times that number when they arrive in Bury.

Bury is the first town in Suffolk to be chosen as a host town for 2012 and the announcement was greeted with surprise and excitement by town and county leaders.

Adam Baker, Suffolk County Council's 2012 project manager, said it was a fantastic reflection on the welcoming committee who greeted Rwanda's Olympic attach�, Daniel Beniston, in June.

He said: “He looked at numerous other venues but was so impressed with the enthusiasm and effort shown by the town that he had no hesitation in recommending Bury. This is now about a relationship that can be built on during the next three years and the possibilities are huge.”

Warren Smythe, manager of Abbeycroft Leisure, who received confirmation from Mr Ignace on Tuesday, said: “I couldn't believe it when I got the news - it's just amazing. Not just for the fact we will have international athletes training at our facility but the fact it will really put Bury on the map.

“There are so many opportunities from athletic exchanges between athletes here and in Rwanda to business, cultural and educational possibilities.”

David Ruffley, MP for Bury, said he was in no doubt the whole town would give a warm welcome to the Olympians when they arrived.

He said: “This goes beyond the excitement and glamour of the Olympics. This is a chance for Bury to create long-standing cultural bridges between the people of Rwanda and the people of Suffolk and I'm sure everyone will get behind this wonderful opportunity.”

Rwandan Olympic history:-

- Rwanda has completed in seven Summer Games but is yet to win an Olympic medal, although Jean de Die Nkundabera won a bronze in the 2004 Paralympics wheelchair racing

- Pamela Girimbabazi is Rwanda's most famous Olympian. The flag bearer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics swam in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 games. Despite her status she had to train in her local hotel pool after teaching herself to swim from a book.

- Jackson Niyomugabo recorded a national best time of 27.74secs in the first heat of the men's 50m freestyle in Beijing but did not progress to the next round. The winning time was 21.30secs by Brazil's Cielo Filho

- In 2012 Rwanda will take part in cycling, swimming and athletics plus wheelchair volleyball at the Paralympics.

Rwanda:-

- Landlocked and smaller than Belgium Rwanda lies 5,000ft above sea level with a population of 9.3million

- There are three distinct ethnic groups: Hutu, Tutsi and the Twa pygmies - believed to be the oldest recorded inhabitants of central Africa

- Between April and July 1994, over one million people, mainly Tutsi and some Hutu were slaughtered in a genocidal outbreak of violence

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RFP) established a Government of National Unity under the leadership of Paul Kagame in 1994. Since then Rwanda has been described as Africa's biggest success story for the peace and economic rehabilitation that has taken place

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