The London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay passed through the North Wales county of Conwy today. To mark the occasion, Jim Jones, Section Head of Coastal Community Development at Conwy County Borough Council tells us what Conwy’s Olympic legacy will be.
It was a decision made in Conwy many years ago to ensure we were not like others who sit on their backsides and whinge about everything happening in London. Immediately following the announcement that London was going to hold the 2012 Olympic Games back in 2005, there was a swell of sentiment from both grassroots sports nationwide, non-sporting functions and also from those communities away from the Olympic venues that they were going to lose out in funding and attention.
In Conwy we decided to bring the Olympics to our doorstep and to approach the games positively. We felt we owed it to our communities do what we can to deliver what Lord Coe wanted from London 2012 and that was to inspire young people.
When Liverpool was the Capital City of culture in 2008, there was lots of talk about the benefits it would bring for North Wales but the reality was that it didn’t happen. A headline in the North Wales Daily Post early in 2009 complained that North Wales hadn’t received any of the benefits promised. In my opinion this was due to the fact the authorities sat back and waited for the benefits to arrive, they didn’t go out and maximise the opportunity Liverpool brought us and make it happen.
Conwy made a conscious decision that we wouldn’t let that happen again, but to actively embrace the opportunity of the Olympics and bring its energy and inspiration to our communities rather than wait for it to arrive.
We have been running sports programmes themed on the Olympics which are getting kids active and giving young people jobs, leading to indefinite work.
Community Chest, which we manage locally on behalf of Sport Wales, is supporting Olympic legacy projects up to £1500 in addition to the normal application groups can apply for. Sport Wales have put another £500,000 into the pot nationally to focus specifically on minority groups such as BME communities and women and girls. This funding is available in all counties in Wales but Conwy has a reputation for punching above its weight in distributing this grant and has armfuls of case studies of brilliant programmes, clubs, capacity improvements and developments that have been delivered as a result in Conwy.
All schools in Conwy have Young Ambassadors for sport, working hard to engage with children and local community in driving sport and Olympics. We have 94 Bronze young ambassadors in our primary schools, 17 ‘Adistars’ in our secondary schools and two Gold Ambassadors representing Conwy.
Our Olympic Day, which is being held at Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay today and has been ongoing for three years, involves over 20 schools, with approximately 550 children who adopt countries and represent them, design flags, and wear kit of the nation’s colours.
We’re also holding an Olympic and Paralympic Day for approximately 500 disabled and non-disabled primary school children who will be taking part in ten different Olympic and Paralympic Sports including wheelchair basketball and boccia with exit routes into our community wheelchair basketball and boccia clubs.
Conwy are hosting the only Paralympic Flame Celebration in Wales on 27 August 2012 where four events at Colwyn Leisure Centre will take place concurrently. Conwy's disability swimming, football, boccia and wheelchair basketball clubs will host their own events that will include other disability sport clubs from all over North Wales in a celebration of Paralympic Sport and the Paralympic Values before representatives and special guests attend a civic reception for the Paralympic Flame where guests will learn of the Paralympic Legacy in Conwy. This will include the first ever wheelchair basketball festival in North Wales and guests will be invited to view the final after the civic reception.
Talking of wheelchair basketball; every secondary school within Conwy will be given two taster sessions in this massively inclusive sport. Wheelchair basketball is played by both disabled and non-disabled people and in the spring term 15 taster sessions were held in Conwy secondary schools with 338 people taking part. Remaining secondary schools will also be offered tasters.
Conwy also provides a level of support for our talented athletes, which far surpasses the usual support a local authority provides. Our elected county council members have always been keen to support our best talented sportspeople and these are not just words, they back their commitment with a range of support.
In Conwy, we cannot wait to welcome the world to our Olympic Games and we are ready to inspire our young people and celebrate with them.
Follow Jim @jjjj86 and Conwy County Borough Council @ConwyCBC on Twitter.