Monday, 14 February 2011

Leeds announces major Chinese coup for 2012 Olympics

Caption: The announcement is celebrated by Chinese students at Leeds Metropolitan University with (left to right) Yorkshire Gold Manager Kate Auld, Dean of the Carnegie Faculty at Leeds Metropolitan University Gareth Davies, Lord Mayor of Leeds Cllr Jim McKenna, Lady Mayoress Cllr Andrea McKenna and Leeds Gold 2012 Project Manager Peter Smith holding the flags of China and Leeds

The city of Leeds is today celebrating a major coup after announcing it will be the training base for China’s track and field team ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In the first deal to be signed by any Chinese sport with any UK city ahead of the Games, the Chinese Athletic Association will base their Olympic team at Leeds Metropolitan University as they prepare for the world’s biggest sporting event next year.

Under the agreement, approximately 50 athletes and officials will be based at the University as they train and acclimatise to the conditions in England shortly before the Olympics begin on 27 July 2012.

The team is likely to include 100m hurdler Liu Xiang, who is a sporting superstar in the Far East and provided one of the enduring images of the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he was left devastated after breaking down on the track and being forced to pull out of the Games due to injury. Liu Xiang has marked his return to form by recording the third fastest time of the year in winning the Asia Games title in November 2010.

China topped the 2008 Beijing Olympic medal table with 100 medals, 51 of them gold.

Dean of the Carnegie Faculty at Leeds Metropolitan University Gareth Davies said:

“We are delighted to be working with the Chinese athletics team and are looking forward to hosting world-class athletes on our campus; it will give our students a great buzz to be training alongside Olympic hopefuls. This is just one example of the benefits that London 2012 can bring to our region and we are keen to maximise the benefits for the city of Leeds.”

Vice President and Secretary General of the Chinese Athletic Association Mr Du said:

“Leeds is a great city. I have looked at the athletics training facilities at Leeds Metropolitan University and the John Charles Centre for Sport and accommodation we plan to use. I am confident Leeds will provide an ideal training base for our athletes as we prepare for the London 2012 Olympic Games.”

As well as training at Leeds Metropolitan University’s Headingley Carnegie campus, the squad will also have access to the John Charles Centre for Sport .

The agreement builds on the strong existing links between Leeds and China. The city has already enjoyed a 23-year twin city agreement with Hangzhou in the Zhejiang Province that has helped develop business, educational and civic partnerships. There is also a sizeable Chinese population living in Leeds.

Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Leeds both attract Chinese students to Leeds to complete a wide range of courses, while Leeds Met deliver a number of degree courses in China in partnership with a number of Chinese universities.

Leeds will benefit financially from hosting the Chinese team, while it also hoped there will be further benefits in terms of trade, tourism and strengthening cultural ties.

Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor Jim McKenna said:

“This is absolutely fantastic news for the city of Leeds – a major coup to be the first UK city to say we are hosting a Chinese Olympic team.

“To be hosting athletes from such a major sporting nation is a great reflection not only on the fantastic facilities we have to offer but everything we have to offer as a city and place to stay. We look forward to welcoming our very special guests.”

Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee Seb Coe said:

“Pre-Games training camps provide essential preparation for every athlete, and Chinese competitors will enjoy world class facilities in Leeds. Having grown up in the county, I’m delighted that Yorkshire people, and especially the Chinese community, will be sharing in the excitement of the Games in their own back yard.

I was inspired by the many 2012-related activities I witnessed across West Yorkshire last year and this is further evidence that the whole country is sharing in the benefits from the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We look forward to following on from Beijing 2008 and hosting a Games for everyone in 2012.”

Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire and Chair of Yorkshire Gold Gary Verity said:

“This signing is a huge coup for Yorkshire and I am thrilled that the Chinese Athletics Team, part of one of the most successful Olympic and Paralympic nations, has chosen Leeds as their base for training ahead of London 2012.

“As the team and their families come here in the lead up to the Games we are confident they will enjoy a big Yorkshire welcome and return home with a wonderful experience of the county. This is the seventh team signed up to be based in Yorkshire and we are very hopeful of attracting more as we lead up to one year to go to the Games. “

Along with the team from China, Leeds will also be hosting athletes from the USA, Serbia and Holland ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

For more information on Leeds and its work towards the London 2012 Games, visit

Notes to editors:

Leeds Gold is the city’s official brand to support the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The council and partners will be using the brand to associate the wide range of events and activities that will be happening between now and 2012 with the Games.

The Yorkshire region’s activities around the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are being co-ordinated by Yorkshire Gold which is supported by key stakeholders from across the region. For further information visit


For media enquiries please contact:
Peter Smith,
Leeds Gold.
Tel 0113 2243041

Helen Goodwin
Leeds Metropolitan University
Tel 0113 812 5935

Roger Boyde,
Leeds City Council,
Tel 0113 247 5472

Leeds Arena breaks new ground

*******Photo/film opportunity*******

After years of planning, ‘Dig Day’ for the Leeds Arena has finally arrived with diggers moving on to the city centre building site to break the ground, Friday 18 February, in preparation for the construction of the arena.

The work represents a landmark in the construction of the 13,500 capacity concert and events venue as the scheme moves off the drawing board and onto the site as part of a two year building programme.

The site will now be a hub of activity until the opening of the arena early 2013. Once the earthworks are complete – in around 12 weeks - construction work will pick up pace dramatically from May 2011.

Photo/film opportunity:

What: Excavator digger on site. Councillor Richard Lewis, and John Sutherland, managing director and senior vice president for SMG-Europe, John Phillips, construction director from the preferred construction contractor for the project, BAM, and Leeds Central MP, Hilary Benn, get together to see for themselves how the work will progress on the site and meet workers from BAM.
Where: Clay Pit Lane, which is the city centre site where the arena will be built.
When: Friday 18 February, 10am.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive member responsible for city development said:

“This is a very exciting phase of what is a hugely important £60m construction project for Leeds. The arena will bring an additional one million visitors to the city, add around £25.5m per year to the city’s economy and create around 450 construction jobs, as well as a number of apprenticeship and work experience opportunities.

“I cannot overestimate the part it will play in helping this city’s economy to continue to grow and attract investment and jobs.

“I am delighted to say that we are now seeing owners of neighbouring buildings bringing forward detailed investment and development proposals, all of which will help regenerate the area and create jobs.”

Once complete, the Leeds Arena will be a theatre style venue with all seats facing the performance area, with perfect sight-lines and spectators much closer to the stage than other traditional bowl venues. The external design is a stunning honeycomb design of lights that can change colour to reflect the mood of the arena event at the time.

And true to the project’s environmental aims and credentials, excavated materials will be stored from the construction site and will be re-used throughout construction, supporting the council’s environmental targets for the development.
Notes to Editors:

1. BAM is part of Royal BAM Group. Royal BAM has a strong pedigree in large prestige buildings and is a key contractor behind two of this year’s stadiums in the FIFA World Cup – including Soccer City, home to the FIFA World Cup Final. They are also currently leading on a £9.2m refurbishment of the Leeds City Varieties theatre and previously constructed the award-winning Leeds Metropolitan University building, the Rose Bowl.
2. SMG Europe is operator for the Leeds Arena. SMG is the largest operator of sports and entertainment venues in Europe, including Manchester Evening News Arena and Bridgewater Hall, the Odyssey Arena, Belfast, and Oslo Spektrum. SMG has considerable industry knowledge and has largely defined the optimum internal design of the arena
3. In October last year the scheme was awarded an entertainment premises licence which means the venue can legally operate as an arena when the building is complete.
4. Just over two thirds of all funding for the Leeds Arena is from third parties or commercial revenue brought about as a consequence of the project.

For media enquiries please contact:
Sara Hyman, Leeds City Council press office tel: (0113) 224 3602

Biggest-ever GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon launched

Caption: Double world champion Hannah Cockroft (centre left) is joined by 96.3 Radio Aire presenter Rich Williams (centre right), the Yorkshire Cancer Research Clanger (centre) and representatives of Leeds City Council, GDF SUEZ and Yorkshire Cancer Research at the launch in Leeds City Museum

This year’s GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon will see a record number of runners take to the city’s streets.

At the 2011 launch held this week it was announced the start line of the annual 13.1-mile challenge, taking place on Sunday 8 May, is being moved from Millennium Square to The Headrow – seeing an increased entry of 5000 runners taking to the course.

In previous years the event started and finished in Millennium Square but with numbers limited to 3,800. This year the finish will still be in its traditional place on the square, but the new start line means one of the city’s biggest mass-participation events is now bigger than ever.

Fresh from claiming two gold medals at the Paralympic World Athletics Championships in New Zealand, Great Britain wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft was guest of honour at the launch of the 2011 GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon at Leeds City Museum.

Hannah helped launch the event which is organised by Leeds City Council and sponsored by utility company GDF SUEZ in association with media partner 96.3 Radio Aire and kit suppliers Up and Running.

The GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon and associated events are open to people of all ages and running abilities, from competition racers to businesses entering teams in the GDF Suez Corporate Challenge relay and children and families able to take part in the junior and mini-run elements which are organised by Jane Tomlinson’s Run For All.

Leeds City Council's executive member for leisure Councillor Adam Ogilvie said:

"The half-marathon is always one of the highlights of the year in Leeds and with more people than ever able to take part it promises to be a fantastic day. We are very proud of the event especially as it raises much-needed funds for such a worthwhile cause, so it would be great if as many people as possible could come out and support those taking part or just come down to watch to make for a very special atmosphere.”

Entries are now open for the half marathon and corporate challenge elements of the event. The main GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon takes in a course around the city and is open to anyone 17 and over. Everyone who successfully completes the course will receive a race medal and t-shirt at the finish line, while certificates and the official results will be able to be downloaded from the website at There are also a range of prizes on offer including £500 for both the first female and male runners to finish.

The GDF SUEZ Corporate Challenge offers the chance for businesses to take part in the event. Teams of six employees each run a section of the half-marathon course in a relay format, with various prizes up for grabs. With no limits on the number of teams each business can enter, it is hoped up to 150 teams will be taking part this year.

96.3 Radio Aire presenter Rich Williams, who will be broadcasting the event live from Millennium Square, said:

“It’s great to see how much the Leeds half-marathon has grown in the past few years. It’s a great event for the city and I’m really pleased that more people can take part. We’re really proud to be a part of it!”

All the runners will be asked to raise sponsorship money for official event charity Yorkshire Cancer Research which helps local people beat cancer by supporting world-class research, diagnosis and treatment throughout Yorkshire. Last year those taking part raised nearly £30,000 for the charity.

Head of events at Yorkshire Cancer Research Emma Young said:

“We’re very proud to have been chosen as the official charity partner of such a fantastic, unique event. Last year our participants exceeded all expectations with their sponsorship and donations.

“It’s only with the help of our supporters that we’re able to fund so many vital projects throughout Yorkshire, and we were amazed by the incredible generosity of everyone who took part on our behalf in 2010.

“This year we hope even more will be raised for our life-saving work. By supporting us you will not only be helping to find cures, but will also ensure that Yorkshire people who get cancer will have the best possible chances.”

For more information or to receive an application form go to or call Leeds City Council’s Sport Development Unit on 0113 3950001. Application forms can also be collected from Leeds City Council leisure centres and 96.3 Radio Aire reception. The deadline for entries is Friday 8 April.

There will also be regular updates about the event via twitter at

Notes to editors:

Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research (YCR), the UK’s largest regional medical research charity, funds around £7m a year of internationally recognised cancer research at its five centres of excellence at the universities of Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York and their associated teaching hospitals. For more information visit

The junior and mini-run elements of the event are organised by Jane Tomlinson’s Run For All team. The junior run is a 2.5k section of the half-marathon route and is open to children aged 9-14. The mini-run is a 1.5k section of the route and is open to children aged 3-8.


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Leisure media relations officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email:

Council commended for work with homeless

Leeds City Council has been commended for its work with homeless people and has been awarded a substantially higher grant allocation for this year.

The Council will receive a Homeless Grant allocation from the government of £1.04m (for 2011/12) – an increase of 136% on the £441,000 received in 2010/11.

As well as this, the Council, along with two voluntary sector organisations, CRI and Create, have been cited by the CLG for its innovative practice in tackling rough sleeping and awarded regional champions status for this work.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member for neighbourhoods and Housing said:

“We are extremely pleased with the news that we have been awarded a much higher grant allocation for this vital cause. This will allow us to continue the great work we do and far more.

“The focus on homeless prevention and success at reducing temporary accommodation placements is not solely about tackling homelessness; rather it shows what public services can achieve if resources are used in an innovative and flexible way.”

Despite the 40% increase in housing need, the number of temporary accommodation placements sourced from the private sector has fallen from 385 in September 2008 to 32 on in January 2011 – a reduction of over 91%.

The annual saving relating to this reduced use of temporary accommodation is £2.5m.

The Council also has a Homeless Prevention Fund that can cover the cost of an intervention, such as a bond for a private rented tenancy or a property clean up, where the alternative is a higher cost to the Council through a temporary accommodation placement.

Notes to editors:

Homeless prevention initiatives include the Sanctuary scheme: partnership with the police and CASAC to provide security measures to create a ‘safer’ living environment for people who have experienced domestic violence or hate crime. 1700 households have taken up the offer of a Sanctuary installation since 2006.


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450

Council recognised for ongoing commitment to apprenticeships

Leeds City Council has been recognised as an outstanding employer for their commitment and support to training staff.

Leeds is the first council in West Yorkshire to have its name added to the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) roll of honour.

The roll of honour has been launched to recognise businesses who are committed to Apprenticeships and the benefits gained from employing apprentices.

The council has a dedicated Apprenticeship programme, Work4Leeds, which creates new opportunities for young people, up-skills existing employees and supports redeployees when they have secured new posts.

Apprenticeships include adult care, nursery work, finance, administration, construction, ICT technical services and school teaching assistants.

Leeds City Council is also working with private businesses to increase the number of Apprenticeships available to young people across the city because currently only 5% of businesses in the city have an Apprentice, compared to 7% across the region.

Since April 2009 to the end of November 2010, there have been 424 Work4Leeds Apprenticeships created with a further 200 that have started in January this year.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said:
“As a council we are committed to the development and training of all our staff, and supporting young people throughout the city. To be recognised by the NAS for our work is a great honour, and we will continue to provide these apprenticeships throughout the council.

“Given the huge economic challenges facing the city and the rise in unemployment facing young people we must do more. That is why we are working with private businesses across the city to encourage more to offer Apprenticeships.

Nick Wilson, Regional Director for the NAS in Yorkshire and the Humber said:
“For years, businesses of all sizes have supported young people by offering Apprenticeships and in return, apprentices have contributed to their employers’ success by increasing efficiency, productivity and providing a sound investment for the future. Apprentices are good for business and now employers can let their customers know they employ apprentices by displaying their support for young people through the Apprenticeship badge scheme.

“We already know some of the real business benefits apprentices can bring to the organisations they work for. As well as a tangible financial return and increased profitability, apprentices can also offer less measurable, but equally important, business benefits such as improving staff retention, producing future managers and introducing innovation to firms operating across a diverse breadth of sectors.”

Notes to editors:

An Apprenticeship is not a qualification in itself; it is a combination of separate
nationally recognised qualifications known as an Apprenticeship Framework,
which cover the practical and theoretical skills, competencies and knowledge
needed for a specific job.


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450