Talks aim to seize Olympics opportunity

IPSWICH has a golden opportunity to use the Olympics as a showpiece for the town and the area - that's the verdict of the man charged with promoting East Anglia's role in the build-up to 2012.

IPSWICH has a golden opportunity to use the Olympics as a showpiece for the town and the area - that's the verdict of the man charged with promoting East Anglia's role in the build-up to 2012.

And Stephen Castle should know what he's talking about - he lived in the town for several months leading up to the 1997 general election when he was the Conservative candidate.

These days he is a leading county councillor in Essex and he has just been appointed chairman of the Eastern Region Sports Board.

Last week he hosted a meeting called to look at ways the region could exploit the opportunities presented in 2012.


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Mr Castle said: “Ipswich and Suffolk can benefit in so many ways from the Olympic decision.

“From Ipswich's point of view it is in a fantastic location, only an hour away from Stratford where most of the events will be taking place.

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“That will give people from the town a great opportunity to visit the Olympics and really feel that they are part of the whole experience.

“Then there is the opportunity for tourism. People will be coming to the Olympics from all over the world and they will be wanting to go out and visit other parts of Britain as well as London.

“East Anglia, and Suffolk in particular, is within easy distance from the capital and should be able to attract many visitors.”

There is also the opportunity for the Ipswich area to attract teams wanting to prepare for the games - although Mr Castle said there was no need to panic over this.

He said: “If you look at the next Olympics in Beijing, many of the small and medium-sized teams haven't yet chosen their training camps.

“There's no need to rush and try to sign up teams right away - it would be better for the area to co-ordinate its response.

“But there are real opportunities for Ipswich - the town has some tremendous facilities. And the multi-cultural nature of the town will also be of great benefit.”

Mr Castle said that could attract teams from the Caribbean and black African nations if they were looking to set up camps away from London.

There could be money available to create new training facilities in the town - but Ipswich would have to prove that there would be a long-term use for these.

“The question of a legacy is very important. What swung the Olympics for London were the plans to use the Games as a springboard for more lasting developments throughout the country,” he said.

“So you will see some of the venues dismantled after the games and taken to different parts of the country.

“There will be an opportunity to get funding for new developments in the town - like a new cycling centre at Ravenswood - but it will have to be proved that there will be a long-term benefit for the community.”

Last week's summit, a joint initiative between EEDA and Sport England, was intended as the first step in putting in place cross-county structures and strategies.

Mr Castle has launched a morning of consultations involving key representatives from district and county councils, and a range of other public sector bodies and private sector representatives.

The aim was to ensure that each county in the East of England is in a position to set up the right structures in order to ensure that they can feed into and support the regional plan.

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