LONDON 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe has promised Olympic fever will reach Tyneside.
Lord Coe was yesterday at Newcastle’s St James’ Park ground to mark Olympic football tickets going on sale and to see how the region has been preparing for next June.
He said Newcastle was chosen to host some matches in the football tournament because of the passion for sport in the region.
The Olympic gold medalist met Newcastle Ladies Football Team and Cynergy, a local events company that has recently won a contract to deliver London 2012 events to regional businesses.
He said: “I’m a football fan. I’ve watched it for 43 years. St James’ Park is known throughout the UK and around the world as a football stadium, which is why we’ve decided to stick with the name.” Lord Coe also said Newcastle hosting football matches would help engage the public in the games beyond London.
He said: “Cities function through difficult times and through better economic times. I’m a great believer of not closing a city for business. It’s very important.
“The Great North Run comes through Newcastle and there will be expenses involved with that, but that’s what gets communities absorbed and people recognise that. I think the Olympics coming to Newcastle is very important.
“If you’re taking an Olympic football tournament around the country it would take a lot of persuading not to take it to Newcastle. It’s not just the history of the game but the iconic nature of the people who have played football in this city.
“I have seen Olympic engagement at a local level. I’ve seen extraordinary engagement in a number of ways.
“Of course, Newcastle being an Olympic city hosting a football tournament will help engagement with the games outside of London but I think engagement was already there anyway.” When asked if he was confident they could fill St James’ Park, Lord Coe said:
“Virtually every young person I spoke to this morning, many come to St James’ Park week-in-week-out. Many have seen European games here. One girl was telling me she’d been coming to the stadium since she was three.
“We went for large stadiums and that was a balance we took. Do we go for smaller stadiums which probably fewer people have heard of? I though no, we will choose venues that tally with the passion for the game.”
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said there was a buzz in the region in anticipation of the Olympics.
He said: “It will be an amazing opportunity to showcase Newcastle and the North East around the world.
“It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to get involved and will give locals a lifetime of memories.
“The preparations are well in hand and Lord Coe was extremely impressed by the passion and commitment Newcastle is showing for the games next year.”