The University has said it is “disappointed” that it will not be used as a training base for Olympic athletes during the London 2012 Games after teams hit funding problems. Facilities at the University were due to be used as part of a training base throughout York for the Olympics which start this week.
Gambia and Guinea-Bissau were due to send their athletes to train in York after agreements were signed two years ago. The teams were to be given access to facilities across the city including the University as well as York St John University, York College, and Huntingdon Stadium.
However it has been confirmed by the city council and the University that both teams have withdrawn from the agreement for financial reasons.
When the agreement was made it was described as “great news for York” by Lord Coe while the facilities across the city were given pre-Games accreditation.
A University spokesperson said that while it depended on the athletes teams brought with them, University facilities were ready for their arrival: “The sports facilities at the University were deemed appropriate by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Precisely which facilities were to be used by the teams from Gambia and Guinea-Bissau depended on which athletes and teams from those countries qualified for the Games.”
However they added that financial restraints meant these teams were unfortunately forced to pull out of the agreement to train at the University: “We are disappointed that neither country felt able to use our facilities and those in York generally. But both had to make decisions on their Games preparations based on the financial resources at their disposal.”
Gill Cooper, the council’s head of arts, culture and heritage, commented on the effect of the teams’ withdrawal from the agreement on the city as a whole: “Like a number of other local authorities, we’re very disappointed some athletes from overseas are unable to attend pre-Games training because of funding pressures.”
She added that the facilities were designated as the correct standard for Olympic training but the matter was now in the hands of LOCOG and the countries involved : “York’s sporting facilities have been designated suitable for international-standard training while offering good value, and we hope the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) can resolve this matter with those countries affected by economic pressures.”
However Cooper stressed that while it was disappointing that athletes will not be using the facilities there has been no economic loss for the city: “While we were looking forward to this culturally-enriching visit, the preparation work has not caused any loss of revenue for York.”
Gambia and Guinea-Bissau are not the only African countries to pull out of plans to train in the UK with others including Senegal and Uganda also withdrawing for financial reasons.
The financial restraints cited by teams appear to be related to issues with paying up front for the use of facilities before being reimbursed by LOCOG, but unfortunately this is too complicated or too expensive for many teams.