The city of Leeds is today celebrating a major coup after announcing it will be the training base for China's track and field team ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. In the first deal to be signed by any Chinese sport with any UK city ahead of the Games, the Chinese Athletic Association will base their Olympic team at Leeds Metropolitan University as they prepare for the world's biggest sporting event next year.
Under the agreement, approximately 50 athletes and officials will be based at the University as they train and acclimatise to the conditions in England shortly before the Olympics begin on 27 July 2012. The team is likely to include 100m hurdler Liu Xiang, who is a sporting superstar in the Far East and provided one of the enduring images of the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he was left devastated after breaking down on the track and being forced to pull out of the Games due to injury. Liu Xiang has marked his return to form by recording the third fastest time of the year in winning the Asia Games title in November 2010.
China topped the 2008 Beijing Olympic medal table with 100 medals, 51 of them gold.
Dean of the Carnegie Faculty at Leeds Metropolitan University Gareth Davies said: "We are delighted to be working with the Chinese athletics team and are looking forward to hosting world-class athletes on our campus; it will give our students a great buzz to be training alongside Olympic hopefuls. This is just one example of the benefits that London 2012 can bring to our region and we are keen to maximise the benefits for the city of Leeds."
Vice President and Secretary General of the Chinese Athletic Association Mr Du said: "Leeds is a great city. I have looked at the athletics training facilities at Leeds Metropolitan University and the John Charles Centre for Sport and accommodation we plan to use. I am confident Leeds will provide an ideal training base for our athletes as we prepare for the London 2012 Olympic Games."
As well as training at Leeds Metropolitan University's Headingley Campus, the squad will also have access to the John Charles Centre for Sport .
The agreement builds on the strong existing links between Leeds and China. The city has already enjoyed a 23-year partner city agreement with Hangzhou in the Zhejiang Province that has helped develop business, educational and civic partnerships. There is also a sizeable Chinese population living in Leeds.
Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Leeds both attract Chinese students to Leeds to complete a wide range of courses, while Leeds Met deliver a number of degree courses in China in partnership with a number of Chinese universities.
Leeds will benefit financially from hosting the Chinese team, while it also hoped there will be further benefits in terms of trade, tourism and strengthening cultural ties.
Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor Jim McKenna said: "This is absolutely fantastic news for the city of Leeds - a major coup to be the first UK city to say we are hosting a Chinese Olympic team. To be hosting athletes from such a major sporting nation is a great reflection not only on the fantastic facilities we have to offer but everything we have to offer as a city and place to stay. We look forward to welcoming our very special guests."
Seb Coe, Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee said:
"Pre-Games training camps provide essential preparation for every athlete, and Chinese competitors will enjoy world class facilities in Leeds. Having grown up in the county, I'm delighted that Yorkshire people, and especially the Chinese community, will be sharing in the excitement of the Games in their own back yard.
I was inspired by the many 2012-related activities I witnessed across West Yorkshire last year and this is further evidence that the whole country is sharing in the benefits from the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We look forward to following on from Beijing 2008 and hosting a Games for everyone in 2012."
Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire and Chair of Yorkshire Gold Gary Verity said: "This signing is a huge coup for Yorkshire and I am thrilled that the Chinese Athletics Team, part of one of the most successful Olympic and Paralympic nations, has chosen Leeds as their base for training ahead of London 2012. As the team and their families come here in the lead up to the Games we are confident they will enjoy a big Yorkshire welcome and return home with a wonderful experience of the county. This is the seventh team signed up to be based in Yorkshire and we are very hopeful of attracting more as we lead up to one year to go to the Games. "
Along with the team from China, Leeds will also be hosting athletes from the USA, Serbia and Holland ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.
For more information on Leeds and its work towards the London 2012 Games, visit www.leedsgold.co.uk.
Notes for editors:
- Leeds Metropolitan University has 30,000 students and over 300,000 associate students through its partnerships with 24 colleges.
- The University has achieved its best ever Research Assessment Exercise results. Sports-Related Studies is in the top 6 institutions in the country with research rated at the highest levels of 4* and 3*.
- The University scored highly in the Times Higher's Student Experience and was ranked 2nd in the category 'Good library and library opening hours'.