Olympic legacy shining bright in Leeds

Caption: Brothers Jonathan (left) and Alistair Brownlee (right), pictured at the London 2012 Olympic Games homecoming celebration, are at the forefront of a strong sporting legacy in Leeds

With the golden memories of the London 2012 Olympic Games officially a year old this weekend, the legacy from the unforgettable events of last summer is proving bright and strong in Leeds.

With some national observers questioning whether the Olympic legacy has stalled, there is strong evidence to prove in Leeds that is firmly not the case. Inspired by the stunning performances at the Olympics and in particular the amazing success of Team GB which made household names out of local medallists Nicola Adams, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee and Lizzie Armitstead, sport in Leeds is growing at all levels.

The sports participation figures recently released by Sport England which sparked the national debate showed that Leeds has seen an overall increase in the numbers of people taking part in 30 minutes of exercise a week from 36.5 per cent in April 2012 to 39.9% in April 2013.

A similar increase can be seen in the figures for those taking part in 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, with the percentage rising from 27.6% in April 2012 to 29.6% in April 2013, strengthening the claims for Leeds to be seen as the most active big city in England.

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All media are invited to attend a photocall and demonstration of gymnastics at Leeds Gymnastics Club at 2pm on Friday 26 July (tomorrow).  The photocall will take place at the club’s Seacroft base with a demonstration of gymnastics and interview opportunities.

Leeds Gymnastics Club is based at Limewood Road, Seacroft, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS14 1AB.

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These figures not only reflect on a post-Olympic rise in participation, but also the significant amount of partnership work through the city’s sport partnership Sport Leeds. The combined work of the partners and supported by the council has helped significantly to develop and encourage sport, fitness and volunteering opportunities in Leeds from grassroots to elite level and has reinforced Leeds’ growing reputation for providing a wide range of sports opportunities.

Despite the ongoing difficult financial climate, Leeds City Council has made a commitment to ensuring such participation increases continue. It has created a £100,000 annual ‘legacy fund’ with a focus on activities for young people aged 14 and under, especially in areas of limited existing provision and parts of Leeds where there are greater health inequalities. This fits into the council’s broader child friendly Leeds ambition to make Leeds the best city for children and young people to thrive and look forward to a brighter future.

The council has also extended rate relief for voluntary sports clubs, in some cases offering up to 100 per cent discount for those which offer the best sport development opportunities for young people and priority groups.

One such example of a community club which is flourishing since London 2012 is the Leeds Gymnastics Club. Previously operated by the council and hindered by not having a home of their own, in January 2012 the Leeds Gymnastics Training Scheme was transferred to the club to run, with backing from the council and British Gymnastics to create a new permanent base in Seacroft.

Since making the change the club has gone from having approximately 200 members in April 2012 to now boasting over a thousand a year later, including 17-year-old Nile Wilson who represented Great Britain at this year’s European Youth Olympics and marked himself out as a star of the future by returning home with three golds and a silver medal.

Director of Gymnastics at Leeds Gymnastics Club Chris Low said:

"It has been an incredible year. Demand for participation in gymnastics has been huge, as our increase in membership numbers shows. We now offer gymnastics classes for all, from six-week-old babies through to adults, and have increased the range of gymnastics disciplines from traditional competitive disciplines to activities such as Freestyle Gymnastics.

“The success of our competitive gymnasts, and of our participation program, is due to the hard work and dedication of all our coaches. Leeds Gymnastics Club has had incredible growth and development, while maintaining high levels of competitive performance, to become one of the largest gymnastics clubs in the UK.”

Another major flagship project to be launched in Leeds later this year to encourage people into sport and fitness is ‘Leeds Let’s Get Active’. Supported by NHS Leeds and Sport England, the new project will see free sessions taking place every day at council leisure centres across the city supported by a programme of activities in parks. This offer will be targeted at those who currently do not take part in any physical exercise and also those living in areas of greatest health inequality.

Following on from the success of Leeds and Yorkshire athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games, talks are also being held with a number of national sporting bodies for the city to host centres for excellence, developing the potential stars of future Olympics.

Leeds itself is also going to be a strong focus for major sports events in the months and years to come, hosting matches in the Rugby League World Cup this November and the Rugby World Cup in 2015 while the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards will be staged at the new £60m first direct arena in the city this December.

Earlier this year Leeds City Council agreed an initial three-year partnership with British Cycling to develop cycling in the city, with the enthusiasm for cycling shown by the 8,500 people who took to the city centre earlier this month for the first-ever Sky Ride Leeds.

This whetted the appetite for next July, when the jewel in the cycling crown and largest annual sporting event in the world the Tour de France begins in the city.

The Leeds stars of London 2012 have continued their success since the Games, with boxer Nicola Adams becoming European champion, Jonny Brownlee becoming World Triathlon Champion and battling it out with brother Alistair in the race for this year’s title while cyclist Lizzie Armitstead won this year’s British National Road Race title.

The city’s young diving stars have this week been in Barcelona competing in the FINA World Aquatics Championships, making up four of the 10-strong Team GB squad and eight coaches and divers participating in total from Leeds.

With the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow now less than a year away, more success is likely for the city’s sporting role models as they build towards the next Olympics in Rio in 2016.

Away from the sporting arena, the success of the Olympic Games also boosted the city in other areas. More than 20 Leeds companies won contracts associated with the construction of Olympic facilities, representing 30% of contracts awarded in the region with an estimated average value of £14-17m each. In addition a number of Leeds companies were part of supply chains for the Games.

Business was also boosted through pre-Games training camps held in the city, with more than 250 Olympic athletes and officials from China, the Netherlands and Sweden coming to Leeds and new economic links created as a result.

Over 400 individuals from local businesses who were interested in doing business with China attended a range of events as part of the Leeds Gold Business Programme (LGBP), which helped provide engagement with the business community on a wide range of business issues, such as inward investment, intellectual property, outward investment and exports.

Since the Olympics visitor numbers to the city from China have been steadily increasing, while both Leeds University and Leeds Metropolitan University have capitalised on their role in hosting the China athletes as part of their student recruitment from the country and beyond.

Reflecting on the last 12 months, Leeds City Council executive member for leisure Councillor Lucinda Yeadon said:

“The London 2012 Olympic Games was an amazing experience which will live long in the memory, but just as important is what comes after it and in Leeds the legacy looks in very good hands.

“With rising participation levels across the city, thriving clubs, a brilliant new flagship project to start soon, some fantastic role models at elite level for us all to be proud of and some of the world’s biggest sporting events coming right to our doorstep, the future of sport in Leeds looks incredibly exciting and bright.”

Aside from the stars of the Olympics, Leeds-based athletes also helped produce some of the most memorable moments of the London 2012 Paralympic Games which followed, with ‘Hurricane’ Hannah Cockroft emerging as a new national sporting star, cyclist David Stone adding to his success from Beijing in 2008 and swimmer Claire Cashmore also claiming a host of medals.

The legacy of the Paralympic Games and how disability sport has grown in Leeds in the last 12 months will be the subject of its own focus and event in early September to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Games.

Notes to editors:

Sport Leeds is the strategic partnership for people and organisations with an interest in the provision and development of sport and active recreation in Leeds. Representation in the partnership includes: higher education; school sport; voluntary sector sport, health, performance sport, media and Leeds City Council.

For more information on the child friendly Leeds initiative go to www.leeds.gov.uk/childfriendlyleeds


For media enquiries please contact:

Roger Boyde,

Leeds City Council press office,

Tel 0113 247 5472

Email: roger.boyde@leeds.gov.uk