The 2012 London Olympics represents a golden opportunity for Waterford to promote itself as a base for teams making their final preparations ahead of the next summer games.

That’s the opinion already being expressed locally and within Olympic Council of Ireland
(OCI) circles just weeks after the flame was extinguished at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.

Speaking to The Munster Express Waterford Athletics County Board Chairman Noel Power said that the time to promote Waterford as a training base for the London Games was now.

“There’s not a moment to lose when it comes to an opportunity like this,” he said.

“In the RSC, we now have a top-class facility which could provide an ideal base for track and field teams when it comes to their final preparations ahead of the London Olympics.”

Noel added: “When you consider the improvements not only to the RSC itself, but the new roads around and into the city and what’s planned for the airport too, which potentially leaves anyone opting to base themselves here just an hour from London, we’ve got everything going in our favour when it comes to enticing athletes to Waterford.”

It’s believed that the idea of pitching Waterford as a possible base for competing nations ahead
of the 30th Olympiad has already been floated
by some members of the OCI’s Executive Committee.

The region is well represented within the OCI’s upper echelons, with West Wateford-born Bobbie Begley, a former President of BLE (now Athletics Ireland) and Carrick-on-Suir native Billy Kennedy filling two of its 13 positions.

Kennedy, one of the country’s best known cycling figures, sees great potential for Waterford and the south east to promote itself as a base for competing nations, but time, he added, is of the essence.

“The London Games provide Waterford and the region as a whole with a chance to position itself as a prime location for athletes who need to acclimatise – from areas such as Asia, South America and Australia, for example,” he said.

“There will be over 200 countries competing in London and not all of them are going to be facilitated within proximity of London and you can be sure that there’ll be groups in Wales, Scotland and in France that will soon be promoting themselves as preparation bases.”

He added: “Because of this, we need someone within the south east to put together a marketing group to best promote the south east as a training camp for certain sports, such as athletics and cycling.”

Referring to his own experience as chief logistics officer for the Irish team for the Atlanta and Sydney Games, Billy is ideally briefed when it comes to what delegations are looking for.

“What is required within the region is a co-ordinated approach that brings in the various sporting bodies, local Chambers of Commerce, hoteliers, major centres of education such as Waterford IT all under the one umbrella to show interested parties what we have in our favour.

“We’ve got a regional airport in a very accessible location; we’ve got some great sporting names we can call upon, like Sean Kelly in cycling and a number of other factors that we need to avail of in a packaged, co-ordinated manner. So there’s a real need to get some heads together on this as [London] will come around very quickly.”

A comment on this proposal was sought from Sports Minister Martin Cullen but none was to hand as this section went to press.