Edge Hill University’s sports facilities could be used by athletes from Oceania as the Northwest Steering Group for the 2012 Games, on behalf of the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) announcement today. Fifteen Pacific Island countries from Oceania will use the Northwest as its training base in the four year period building up to the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Dr Robin Mitchell, Secretary General of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC); Mr Vidhya Lakhan, President of the Fijian National Olympic Committee and Peter Mearns, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at the NWDA, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Friday between Oceania and England’s Northwest. They will be joined by Olympic Triple Jump gold medallist and LOCOG Board Member, Jonathan Edwards, who is a Board member of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the vice chairman of their Nations and Regions Group.

The MOU is a commitment for the Pacific Islands of Oceania and the Northwest to work together exclusively on using the region as the Training base for Oceania National Olympic Committees in the build up to London 2012 and hopefully beyond looking to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Northwest Regional Development Agency logoThe NWDA and its partners* will now work with ONOC with a view to developing the agreement to start roll out early in 2009.

Dr Mitchell said: “On behalf of all 15 Olympic Committees we are delighted to have made this long-term commitment between the Northwest region and Oceania which will benefit both parties.

“Having visited the Northwest myself and seen the wonderful sports and educational facilities I know Oceania’s athletes and coaches will have the best possible preparation for London 2012. I look forward to continuing our work with the NWDA and other partners over the coming years.”

Peter Mearns said: “To include so many countries in one agreement makes this a unique understanding. It also provides an opportunity for the whole of the Northwest to be inspired by the 2012 Games as every sub region has contributed to the development of this agreement.

“The Northwest has the world class sports facilities and infrastructure to host these athletes and our clubs and coaches will be important in helping to welcome these athletes and support their preparations for London 2012. I am delighted that Oceania have signed up with the Northwest and I look forward to working with them over the next four years and beyond.”

Jonathan Edwards said: “It’s great to see teams developing plans to come and train in the Northwest. Some of the athletes from the teams represented here today may not have had the opportunity to travel to the host country for a preparation camp before, and I hope that the financial awards that LOCOG is offering has helped to encourage these teams to train in the UK.

“LOCOG is committed to ensuring that athletes are at the heart of our Games and these plans for Pacific island competitors to train with local athletes provide a terrific opportunity for both London 2012 participants and the region’s local athletes alike.

“Wherever they train, I am sure they will receive a warm welcome and will thoroughly enjoy the experience – I know that they enjoyed the fantastic atmosphere when competing in the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 and it’s fantastic that some of the knock-on benefits of those Games are delivering a tangible legacy – with the Northwest set to benefit from London hosting the Games in 2012.”

The MoU sets out an agreement to develop wide ranging links. These include:

  • Pre London 2012 preparation and holding camps.
  • Oceania athletes and support staff training in the Northwest full or part time on education programmes or work placements, linking into club, coaching and competition structures in the region. A number of Universities in the Northwest have been actively involved in discussions to date for example.
  • Working together on a range of sports development initiatives back in Oceania to help grow sport and create a genuine sustainable legacy for sport in Oceania from the relationship.
  • To develop wider educational and cultural exchanges between Oceania and the Northwest, linking to the values of the London 2012 Education programme and the Cultural Olympiad.

Following signing of the agreement the delegation from Oceania, which also includes Mr Vidhya Lakhan, President of the Fijian National Olympic Committee and Mr Dennis Miller from Oceania National Olympic Committees, will visit a number of the potential sites that may be used by their athletes including Edge Hill University and Wavertree Sports Centre. Representatives from Oceania have previously visited sites across the Northwest including Preston Sports Arena, Cumberland Arena in Crewe, Leigh Sports Village and Robin Park Arena in Wigan. The delegation arrived on Thursday and will stay in the region until Sunday.

Andy Worthington, Chair of the Northwest Steering Group for the 2012 Games, said: “This agreement symbolises what the Olympic Movement stands for and provides an opportunity to develop a long lasting relationship through sport with countries on the other side of the world, while inspiring communities across the Northwest. We are excited to be working with the Oceania countries and look forward to working with them to help them achieve their goals for London 2012.”

Following the signing of today’s MoU, some 16 countries have agreed to base their Olympians and Paralympians in the Northwest to date, following the agreement with Thailand signed on Wednesday.