Colleges set up as Olympic camps
Colleges with world-class sporting facilities have been approved as Olympic training camps before the 2012 games in London. FE institutions will be offered as a base for athletes in disciplines ranging from track and field, to equestrianism and table tennis, the organising committee announced this week.
The 25 colleges chosen join a list of more than 600 UK venues available for the world's top sportsmen and women to use in their preparations during the weeks before the London Olympics in four years' time.
It puts the training facilities at these colleges in the company of Premiership football clubs such as Manchester United, and famous venues such as the race circuit at Brands Hatch, recommended for road cyclists.
Among the chosen sites is Hartpury College in Gloucestershire, which is being recommended to the world's Olympians for its high quality facilities in equestrianism - including four arenas and stabling for 230 horses - as well as for the modern pentathlon.
It offers 1,000 bedrooms, and its sporting academies have fitness suites and gyms, video analysis facilities, fencing pistes and areas for running.
Malcolm Wharton, the college principal, said: "We have been involved in running European and World Championships since 1994, culminating in the World Para Dressage Championships at the Hartpury Arena last July.
"We are delighted to add our involvement with the Olympic Games to our portfolio. This summer we will be hosting the British Olympic dressage team for their pre-Hong Kong quarantine and training camp and we are also talking to the Australian eventing team for a similar venture."
The college's lottery-funded centre of excellence for modern pentathlon - an event which combines showjumping, shooting, swimming, fencing and cross-country running - is also a likely source of 2012 contenders, Mr Wharton said.
"We have had junior gold medallists and European gold medallists among both our young riders and in modern pentathlon, so there is that possibility," he said. Rural colleges have proved popular as training centres for equestrian events, with more than half of the FE institutions selected as training camps chosen for their facilities for horses.
They can also host events such as judo in the case of South Devon College, sailing for Weymouth College in Dorset, table tennis among several events at Filton College in Bristol, and boxing at Hopwood Hall College in Lancashire.
Having been recommended by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and featured in its guide to foreign teams, the colleges will now face a race to position themselves as the favoured venue for one of the 200 competing nations.
Simon Clegg, chief executive of the British Olympic Association, said the selected sites showed there was a "huge choice of world class venues on offer" which would play a crucial part in determining medal winners. "The last weeks of an athletes' preparation for an Olympic Games can have a significant impact on their performance," he said.