Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Bradford district gives London 2012 athletes an Olympic welcome
7:00am Thursday 26th July 2012 in Sport
Without any PR huffing and puffing, Bradford has already made a mark on the London Olympics, most obviously in the presence of world champion triathletes (cycling, running and swimming) Alistair and Jonny Brownlee from Bramhope, near Otley .
Less obviously, for the last four weeks the city has played host to 33 athletes from India, Nigeria, Tanzania and Vietnam, with up to 15 Chinese boxers and their coaches using training facilities offered by Bradford College, the University of Bradford and the University Academy Keighley .
“The athletes stayed at Doris Birdsall Hall, near the Bradford College’s Trinity Green Campus,” said Hilary Pape, a physiotherapy lecturer at the university, who has worked with some of the athletes. “The Chinese came over from Leeds.”
On a wall board inside Bradford College’s spacious boxing hall the athletes wrote their names in three vertical lines.
Each country gets £25,000 from the International Olympic Committee to spend on training facilities.
The Bradford economy may have benefited by at least £100,000, not including the money the athletes spent personally during their time here.
Nigel Redmond, the College’s sports centre manager, said the athletes, wearing tracksuits in their national colours, were frequently asked to pose for photographs in and around the Kirkgate Centre.
The man responsible for going out and persuading these countries to send their Olympic hopefuls here is Ronnie Todd, international project manager at the Bradford College.
‘Rocket Ronnie’ as he’s known, injured a foot while dancing out in Nigeria. He was having hospital treatment when I visited the college.
A Vietnamese high-jumper, a walker and a couple of Nigerians came into the cafeteria for an early morning breakfast before being driven to Keighley for their final training session.
Over the past four weeks, runners and walkers from Tanzania and Vietnam travelled over from Bradford to train on the Academy Keighley’s 400-metre track. They also enjoyed themselves on the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at five in the morning.
John Dennis, a director of Sport Keighley, said: “There was a marathon runner, a 20k walker and a 5,000-metre runner who needed to run for an hour or so. We set them off at Apperley Bridge , which gave them a good run beyond Riddlesden . Then they turned round and came back.
“At that time of day it was absolutely beautiful. They really enjoyed the canal – they couldn’t get lost. They also attended one or two sports events. They were superb ambassadors for their countries and the kids loved having them around.”
Bradford College offered them a 1,000 square metre sports hall, two basketball courts, sports fitness laboratories, a fitness testing suite, an areobics and dance studio, three five-a-side pitches and a full-size football pitch – part of the new £20 million campus combining the curriculum areas of sport, engineering and construction, opened in 2008 by the-then Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, Labour MP for Bradford South.
You might have thought that with the Olympic Games as an inspiration and Bradley Wiggins’s unprecedented triumph in the Tour de France as an added encouragement to cyclists, sport in this country, in this district, would speed up faster than Mo Farrah on the last lap of a 5,000 metres race.
Yet only last week Gerry Sutcliffe was among a number of public figures expressing concern that Government spending cuts in the School Sports Partnership could work against a renaissance in sport.
“At a time of increasing obesity we should be encouraging sport, as in turn this will cost the NHS less money,” said Mr Sutcliffe, the erstwhile goalkeeper for the House of Commons football team.
Keighley town mayor Councillor George Metcalf, a former Combined Services featherweight champion boxer and a professional boxer for four years, fought on the same bill in Liverpool as former world light heavyweight champion John Conteh in 1981.
Councillor Metcalf came over to Bradford to meet the Olympic athletes and posed for a picture with Edith Oqoke, Nigeria’s top female boxer.
Of the sports facilities now available in the district, and especially at Bradford College, he said: “The facilities are fantastic. They are state of the art, the best I have seen in the country. It was good to see how we could accommodate athletes from four countries.
“As a whole, Bradford, Keighley and the surrounding areas have facilities that could be a big plus for Bradford.”
Councillor Metcalf would like to see Bradford offer a qualification that combines an academic discipline with a sport such as boxing. “Boxing gives an individual discipline, calms you down and keeps you fit. Those with ability who lack discipline and have too much aggression, boxing sorts that out for them,” he added.
So does chess apparently.
Nigel Redmond said in London, chess-boxing was taking off – alternating three-minute intervals of pugilism and chess-playing. He runs chess leagues at the college, but said at 40 he was too old to start being hit in the face.
The athletes have now gone to the Olympic Village in London. But in a couple of weeks others will be arriving in Bradford from Tanzania and Vietnam to compete in the Paralympics.
Overall, the experience for all concerned, including Bradford University’s 120 or so physiotherapy students, has been genuinely “fantastic”, said Hilary Pape.
“Normally, to work with Olympic athletes requires five years’ training. I am fairly used to it, but to bring that in as part of our students’ education has been great. It gives them a great advantage when applying for jobs in the future,” she said.
“Also we’ve become good friends, particularly with the Nigerians who were here for so long. I know students have swapped e-mails with them and are interested in going to see Nigeria,” she added.
John Dennis is looking beyond the London Olympics to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“We want to invite Tanzania and other countries back again, and maybe get Canada to come as well. We’ve got the training facilities as well as beautiful countryside,” he added.