Thursday, 24 May 2012
Caption: Deputy Director General of the Sport Department of the Chinese Olympic Committee Mr Liu Aijie (left) with Leeds City Council project manager for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Peter Smith conducting the formal signing of the contract in Beijing
Leading Chinese athletes from eight sports will be coming to Leeds in July and August to train for the London 2012 Olympic Games after the agreement between the sporting nation and the city was formally signed last week.
In a signing ceremony held in Beijing, the Chinese Olympic Committee concluded the negotiations to use Leeds as its official European pre-Games training base in a historic agreement with Leeds City Council, The University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University, Bradford College and Wakefield Sports Club.
The agreement in principle had first been announced in August 2011 when both parties signed a memorandum of understanding. This was followed by months of detailed negotiations leading up to the final signing of the contract last week in Beijing. Approximately 220 athletes, coaches and support staff will be arriving in Leeds from early July, covering eight sports as the China teams complete their final preparations before competing in the world’s biggest sporting event in London.
The confirmed China teams coming to Leeds are in the following sports: swimming at the Aquatics Centre, John Charles Centre for Sport; table tennis, fencing and Taekwondo at The University of Leeds; track and field athletics at Leeds Metropolitan University; boxing at Bradford College; hockey at Wakefield hockey club, and canoe slalom which will also be part of the official Leeds camp but will be based and train at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham.
Since the original memorandum of understanding was signed last year a number of China sports have changed their plans for their pre-Games training. Mountain biking, modern pentathlon, water polo and handball have either not qualified to compete in London or have changed their plans, while boxing which was not in the original deal has been added to the Leeds camp.
The most high-profile among the Chinese athletes coming to the city will be their table tennis stars who enjoy near-total dominance over the rest of the world. Such is their stranglehold at the top of the sport that China currently boasts the leading five players in both the men’s and women’s world rankings, while they have also swept the board by winning every available title at the individual World Table Tennis Championships since 2003.
The delegation from Leeds who visited Beijing included two chefs from the University of Leeds, who were invited by the Chinese Olympic Committee to gain experience and understanding of the way in which they prepare and cook food in their own Olympic Training Centre. The Leeds chefs were given an insight into an environment that very few westerners have ever seen before, and will help ensure that the food prepared for the visiting Chinese athletes is of the required standard. Their enhanced knowledge of this type of cuisine will also benefit the many Chinese, Asian and other students on campus.
As well as the direct financial benefits of hosting the China team which is likely to be approximately £250,000, the deal is also expected to provide a major long-term boost to trade, commerce and tourism as well as strengthening cultural ties between Leeds, Yorkshire, the UK and China. Leeds has recently launched the Leeds Gold Business programme that is intended to harness the opportunities that hosting the Chinese Olympic athletes in Leeds presents.
The deal further reinforces the already strong links between Leeds and China as the city and Hangzhou in the Zhejiang Province have enjoyed a sister city agreement for the last 23 years and there is a sizeable Chinese population living in Leeds.
The University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University 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 also be hosting pre-Games training for the Netherlands swimming squad at the Aquatics Centre at the John Charles Centre for Sport from July 15-24, including reigning Olympic and world champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo (women’s 4x100 metre freestyle relay).
The Canada wheelchair rugby team will also be heading to Leeds to train at The University of Leeds before competing in the London 2012 Paralympic Games which takes place from Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 9 September.
Following detailed discussions with other countries who had indicated a desire to train in Leeds, unfortunately due to financial reasons caused by the world recession and reduced sporting budgets linked to poor qualifying performances, or for other logistical reasons, athletes from the USA, Serbia, Russia and Australia are now unable to come to the city.
Speaking after the formal signing agreement between Leeds and China, Deputy Director General of the Sport Department of the Chinese Olympic Committee Mr Liu Aijie said:
“The Chinese Olympic Committee sincerely appreciates the hard and fruitful work Leeds City Council has done on the preparations of the pre-Games training camp for the Chinese sports delegation. We are firmly convinced that the training camp of the Chinese sports delegation in Leeds will achieve great success with mutual trust, concerted efforts and friendly cooperation from both sides.
“The friendship between China and UK will definitely make strides forward with the success of the pre-Games training camp and I hope more and more Chinese students will go to Leeds to pursue their studies in the near future.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield said:
“We are absolutely thrilled to have signed the deal for China to send its athletes to Leeds to complete their preparations for the London 2012 Olympic Games. It is a historic agreement and a tremendous honour to be hosting some of the world’s leading athletes in our city and we are sure they will enjoy their time in Leeds.
“As with all agreements things can alter after the initial negotiations, and especially due to the current very challenging global economic climate it is no surprise to see some of the elements have changed but it remains a massive achievement to have secured these athletes from China, Holland and Canada to come to Leeds and we very much look forward to welcoming them.”
Chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) Seb Coe said:
“This partnership is a great example of what we wanted to achieve with the Pre-Games Training Camp process. China will have use of some fantastic facilities and in turn Leeds has the honour of hosting one of the world’s best sporting nations.”
For more information on Leeds and its work towards the London 2012 Games, visit www.leedsgold.co.uk
Notes to editors:
Leeds Gold is the city’s official brand to support the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. It has been developed to be used by individuals and organisations in the city in connection with any projects, events or activities that contribute to, and capitalise on, all the opportunities that the hosting of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games present. It will provide an ‘umbrella’ brand that will link projects and events together and make a clear association with, and help celebrate, the London 2012 Games. For further information please go to www.leedsgold.co.uk
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 www.yorkshire-gold.com
For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Senior communications officer,
Leeds City Council, Tel 0113 247 5472
Posted by Leeds City Council press office at 15:03