SPORTS Minister Hugh Robertson officially started the region’s build up to the Olympics yesterday – by visiting a gym that almost closed last year.
Mr Robertson’s visit marked the countdown to the 2012 Games, which are 200 days away.
He paid tribute to the volunteers at Deerness Gymnastics Academy at Ushaw Moor, County Durham, who recently received more than £6,000 from the NatWest Community Force after their project received the most votes from the public in their area.
The funds from this nationwide initiative will help Deerness Gymnastics Academy to develop and support the baby, toddler and pre-school gymnastics classes, making the classes accessible to parents, carers and toddlers throughout the area. This will encourage health and exercise from an early age.
Mr Robertson’s visit took place three months after the club took over the running of Deerness Leisure Centre following its closure by Durham County Council.
Deerness Gymnastics Academy is now making gymnastics coaching available to all ages from novice to elite level. Currently parent and toddler groups run on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings and are already attended by more than 60 budding toddler gymnasts and their carers.
Mr Robertson, who also took part in a tour of Durham County Cricket Club’s Riverside complex, said he believed the Olympics could provide an inspiration for youngsters across the region. “During the 2012 Olympics there will be one moment of magic, one feat that everyone will remember, they will remember exactly where they were when they were watching it,” he said.
“These games, the first in Britain since 1948, will inspire young athletes to follow in the footsteps of the Olympic heroes.” Mr Robertson said he accepted cutbacks have forced many local authorities such as Durham to close leisure centres.
But he said community groups such as the Deerness supporters had to be commended for refusing to allow the club to die.
The club has been in operation for more than 20 years and is a fully recognised and registered British Gymnastics Club that has achieved GymMark and Sport England Mark as a safe, effective and child-friendly club.
Mr Robertson took a tour of Durham County Cricket Club and the Riverside Complex to see the plans in place for it to be used as a potential pre-Games training camp venue, before watching a sports demonstration at Deerness Leisure Centre.
He also praised Durham Cricket Club as well as both Newcastle and Sunderland football clubs for the outreach work they perform in the community.
During the 2012 Olympics there will be one moment of magic, one feat that everyone will remember