Tyne & Wear

Newcastle's St James' Park to play key part in Olympics

St James' Park in Newcastle
Image caption Nine football matches will take place at St James' Park

The London 2012 Olympics might be taking place about 300 miles away, but St James' Park in Newcastle will play a key part in it.

The ground will host nine of the Olympic football tournament matches.

The games include a quarter-final in both the men's and women's competitions.

Meanwhile, Regional Development Agency One North East has estimated that contracts won in the North East could bring in at least £100m.

BBC Look North's business correspondent Ian Reeve, however, says the North East is lagging behind.

He said: "A breakdown of awarded contracts shows a marked North/South divide.

"New research from finance group Close Invoice claims just 12% of small and medium-sized businesses in the region think the Olympics will bring them any benefit at all."

'Great city'

Tickets for the football matches total 300,000, which will see people from all over the country travelling to the North East.

"There's no doubt Newcastle-upon-Tyne will benefit in terms of increased media focus on our great city," a Newcastle United club spokesman said.

"As for Newcastle United, we're extremely proud to be a host city for the tournament and with millions of viewers all around the world expected to watch the coverage, it can do nothing but good for the good name and reputation of the club."

Three national teams have chosen to take advantage of training facilities in the North East.

Grenada have chosen the University of Sunderland, Sri Lanka have chosen Durham University and Colombia have also confirmed they will be training in the North East.

Alnwick, Durham and Newcastle have also been chosen to host an overnight stay for the Olympic torch.

'Fantastic opportunity'

Sarah Stewart, from the NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said she hoped that not only will such events boost the economy but would also help improve "external perceptions" of the region.

"We must capitalise on the increased and hopefully overwhelmingly positive coverage, to entice visitors to sample the country for the first time or return to explore something new," she said.

Bus and coach firms in the North East have landed part of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Locog) contracts worth £17.6m.

Companies such as Newcastle-based Hart Door Systems have supplied roller shutters for the Olympic stadium and Baynes Travel, from Northumberland, will be supplying coaches to transport athletes and officials during the Games.

The Tyne and Wear Metro is also hoping to increase its services to cope with expected higher demand.

Bernard Garner, Director General of Nexus, said: "Newcastle benefits from very good public transport which we expect will be shown at its best during the Olympics, helping showcase the whole region.

"We have already planned to suspend all modernisation work on the system during the Olympic period, and worked closely with Locog and local partners to ensure we are ready, with our staff supporting Olympic volunteers to ensure a warm welcome and the best possible experience."

The Cultural Olympiad is a partnership between Locog, arts and cultural organisations across the UK and London 2012 stakeholders.

Mark Robinson, of Arts Council England, North East, said: "The Cultural Olympiad is a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of the excellent art developed in the North East."

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