The University of York will be among a number of venues in the city chosen to host the Gambian Olympic and Paralympic squads before the 2012 London games.
Lawrence Bruce, executive director of the Gambian National Olympic Committee, toured on-campus facilities earlier this week during a visit to the city, which culminated with him signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Councillor Nigel Ayre, confirming Gambia’s intention to come to use York as a training camp before the games.
Bruce also visited York College, Huntington Stadium – home to the York City Knights rugby league side – and York St. John University, where students in the sports science department visited Gambia on a four-day coaching course in March this year.
The venues have been awarded Pre-games Training Camp status by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and Bruce declared himself “very impressed” with the facilities.
“I have been greatly impressed with what I have seen around York,” Bruce added. “I have really enjoyed myself looking at these great facilities, which are compared to none I have seen so far.
“We can make good use of them in 2012. We are feeling great and we can’t wait to come to York.”
Seb Coe, LOCOG chair, said: “This is great news for York. The excellent sporting facilities in York will help the Gambian team train and prepare well for the London Games. It will also lead to a strong relationship between Yorkshire and The Gambia, and the development of sporting and cultural ties.”
The agreement with Gambia is the first positive step in securing a deal with the other six members of the Zonal Association of National Olympic Committee of Africa (ZANOCA) Zone II to use facilities in York before the 2012 games. The other nations are Senegal, Burkino Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea and Niger.
The deal has followed months of hard work by Active York, the city’s sport and physical activity partnership. George Gomez, the Gambian Olympic Minister, initially visited the city in the summer of 2009 to inspect facilities.
“We are delighted to be have been able to secure the agreement with the Gambian Olympic committee to use the University as a pre Olympic games training camp,” said Rob Wadsworth, University Sports and Recreation Manager. “I hope it will be the first of several African countries that will agree to come to York, and as part of Active York we will continue to support these negotiations.
“The key role that the University played in securing the deal demonstrates the positive impact the that University Sport is having within the region and I am sure we can continue to develop these partnerships that will ultimately benefit our students and staff.”
Emily Scott, York Sport President, added: “It’s fantastic that York is going to be part of the 2012 Olympic Games and the legacy that will follow.
“Hopefully this decision by Gambia will also result in the other six African nations of the conglomerate to also choose York as the host city for their pre-Olympic training. Being directly involved with the Olympics should also bode favourably for the Heslington East sports development, which is currently dependent on some key funding decisions going the right way. If they do, hopefully we will have more facilities to offer these nations.”
Gambia has send athletes to every Olympics since the Los Angeles games of 1984, but have yet to collect a medal.