London 2012: Olympic 'knowledge' for Surrey taxi drivers

Anna Tomkins from Visit Surrey, Denise Saliagopoulos from Surrey County Council and Denis Bone from Roadrunners Gatwick
Image caption Tourists in Surrey will be given information on where to go and what to do during the 2012 Games

Taxi drivers are famed for their chat and banter but as the UK prepares for the 2012 Games those in Surrey are also being taught the "Olympic knowledge".

Drivers are learning about the Olympic and Paralympic sporting events, venues and celebrations to ensure visitors do not miss out on what is going on.

They will also provide details about the best tourist attractions and other places to explore away from the Games.

In-car television screens will show images of landmarks and beauty spots.

In an initiative between Visit Surrey, the county council and the Roadrunners Gatwick taxi company, every visitor will be given the chance "to pick up the Olympic spirit".

Denis Bone, HR director at Roadrunners Gatwick, said all its 200 drivers would be "equipped with enthusiasm and knowledge to maximise every visitors' trip".

The company, which is based in Redhill and Horley, carries more than 140,000 passengers every month and has major contracts with airlines at Gatwick Airport and the county council.

Business development director Harry Malik, who is in charge of training, said: "We are proud that our country is representing the Olympics.

"We are proud of our county, and want to capitalise on this."

He said as the Olympics drew nearer "the excitement was creeping in among staff and management".

He added that drivers working for the company, which has been bidding for a number of Olympic contracts, would show Surrey at its best and encourage everybody to be part of the Olympic experience.

"It's all for the county," he said, adding that drivers would not be forgetting their regular "bread and butter customers".

A total of 16 Olympic and Paralympic teams have signed up to train in Surrey, including Team GB cyclists and basketball players.

The taxi drivers will be particularly busy on 28 and 29 July - the opening weekend of the Olympics - and 1 August when Surrey hosts the Olympic men's and women's cycle road race and time trial events.

Denise Saliagopoulos, Surrey County Council's cabinet member for the 2012 Games, said: "Britain's cabbies are renowned for their wealth of local knowledge so it makes sense to tap into this for the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

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