London 2012 Olympics: Kent set for training camps

Pashupati Parajuli and Ghanshyam Khatiwada with KCC's chairman Paulina Stockell signing the agreement for Nepal to come to Kent to train
Image caption The Nepalese Paralympic delegation signed an agreement to train in Kent

A tenth Olympic team is to train in Kent in the run-up to the London 2012 Games amid hopes another could also be based at a top school in the county.

The Nepalese National Paralympic Committee signed an agreement after visiting potential sites this week.

Tonbridge School, where Australia's athletics team will train, is also hoping to attract a hockey nation.

With a year to go to the Olympics, assistant bursar Mark Organ said it was talking to various countries.

He said the school had two water-based astro-turfs of international standard which a hockey team could use for pre-games training before going on to the Olympic Village in London.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed last September between the Olympic athletics team from Australia, Tonbridge School's head master Tim Haynes, and Kent County Council for the squad to train at the school in 2012.

The Ukraine and Belarus judo squads will also be based at the school and will use the facilities at Tonbridge Judo Club.

Mr Organ said the teams would have full use of the school's facilities, including accommodation, from 9 July 2012 until the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games.

"Some people like to be in the village, but others prefer to just go to the competition three days before their event," he said.

"We will do our bit to support the competitors so they are at their best when they go up to the games."

He added that the school had been planning for the Olympic Games for three years, and had hosted an international judo camp every year since 2009.

Preparations for the arrival of the athletes are already under way with new surfaces being re-laid on the pole vault runway and long jump and triple jump runway, which boys at the school will also benefit from.

Mr Organ said some of the Australian athletes would be visiting the school this August to "test drive" the facilities ahead of the Athletics World Championships in South Korea.

'Exciting time'

"There is a buzz about the place - from the headmaster down to catering staff and cleaners - all there to support a once in a lifetime event for us.

"We have one mind that we will provide the best possible support for the countries... it's going to get stronger as we move forward.

"The town too - athletes will be walking down the streets, shopping, going to restaurants. They will very much be part of the community," he said.

Double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, who grew up in nearby Hildenborough and trained at Tonbridge School, said the London 2012 Olympics would be "brilliant for some and beyond pressure expectation for others".

"I'm really glad that I did what I did when I did it because Athens was the birthplace of the games, so for me that was quite historical," she said.

Image caption Dame Kelly Holmes with Surrey athlete Dani Christmas on the running track at Tonbridge School

Other nations to have announced they will train in Kent and Medway ahead of the games include the Barbados and Papua New Guinea paralympic teams, Portugal's gymnastics and trampolining squad, Slovenia's gymnastics team, Senegal's olympic team, and the British judo team.

Kent County Council cabinet member for customer and community services, Mike Hill, said the countdown to the games was a "very exciting time".

"We are delighted Nepal has chosen to come to Kent and look forward to welcoming all the international athletes who will be staying and training here," he said.

"The work which has taken place over the last six years will help the county benefit from a boost in tourism, an increase in spending locally as well a real excitement of being on the doorstep of London 2012.

"Local businesses have won Olympic contracts and we have seen a surge in people wanting to volunteer and get involved.

"Altogether we are looking to make sure the benefits from the games are felt long into the future."

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