IOC president gives stamp of approval to Olympic sailing venue
SAILING will be staged in Weymouth in the exposed western end of the English Channel and as many as 50,000 spectators per day are predicted to turn up to watch what will be the only sport in the Olympics to take place completely outside London.
It is set to lead to British sailing being awarded about an extra £10 million in funding to help ensure the newly opened Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, located approximately 150 miles south west of London, is turned into a world-class venue befitting the country's status as the most successful sailing nation in Olympic history.
The £7.85 million Academy, built on the site of a Naval Air Station at Osprey Quay in Dorset, was officially opened in June 2005 by HRH The Princess Royal, president of the Royal Yachting Association, and will be a regular training facility for Britain's incredibly successful sailing teams during the build-up to the Beijing and London Olympics.
But London's official bid document outlines a further sizeable chunk of funding to cater for the Olympics. This would be split into approximately £4m for permanent facilities and £6m for temporary ones.
"The academy is fairly new but we do need additional facilities to host the Olympics in terms of permanent ones which will be a legacy for the sport, and temporary things like a media village and security," said John Tweed, the Academy's director of development.
These include the need for slipways totalling a width of 150m compared to the current 35m and changing facilities for 280 men and 120 women. The Academy's target is to have everything in place by 2010 so it will be ready to host a series of test events to ensure everything is ready for the Games.
On any given Olympic sailing day there is expected to be one course inside Weymouth harbour with four outside in the bay.
Five spectator areas are planned to accommodate the number of people who are expected to want to watch the action. One will be on Weymouth beach with big screens and live feeds from the water, plus another four on higher ground where people will have a more aerial view of what is happening on the water.
"At Athens it was impossible for people to see the sailing," said Tweed. "We're hoping we can make it much more accessible for spectators. We're in a natural amphitheatre so we already start with an advantage."
A 95-mile stretch of the Dorset and East Devon coast has also recently been designated as a World Heritage Site because of the abundance of the fossils found in its limestone cliffs.
The area is expecting to reap huge benefits in 2012 and the years leading up to the Games. Residents hope that long-delayed new roads will finally be built and hotel owners are anticipating a tourist boom.
"We've got a world-class sailing facility in the middle of a World Heritage Site which will get us worldwide attention," predicted Tweed.
Weymouth has already earned praise from Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee and a former Olympic sailor. "I am confident that the combination of the shore side facilities and the quality of the waters will provide opportunities for the best Olympic sailing ever here at Weymouth," he said.