by Cailah Leask
The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) is marking 500 Days to the Games today, March 15. This key turning point in the journey to the ultimate sporting event on Earth is pulling the ‘eyes of the world’ to the shores of Weymouth and Portland.
As the venue for the sailing competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy has been transformed into a world class sports destination that will host the top water sports athletes from across the globe next summer. Through the development of this award winning Dorset venue and the Games being hosted on UK waters there is already a tangible rise in the numbers of young people inspired to try marine based sports.
It is this ‘sporting flavour’ that the Academy is helping to promote both locally, nationally and internationally providing as many children as possible with the opportunity to experience water sports. Be this through taster sessions, training as part of a team or competing seriously. The Games is an important vehicle in the long road to sparking an interest with youths from a young age and stimulating them in a safe and fun environment to take up sport.
The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy annually hosts local schools events, national selections and championships as well as international youth regattas. The SailLaser School on site is constantly busy teaching youths from across Britain and PGL as well as the Official Test Centre regularly run general watersports courses and windsurfer training / tuition during the warmer months. The Academy in association with the Chesil Trust has also incorporated the successful ‘Sail for a Fiver’ into their core programme of events which to date has helped over 6,000 children try sailing for just £5 and is set to deliver a strong legacy with 1,600 children benefiting per year.
Ben Ainslie, CBE, WPNSA Director and Triple Gold Medalist, who grew up sailing on Dorset waters, is a supporter of legacy post the Games, ‘a Sail for a Fiver child today may be a medal winner by 2016 and it is our job at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy to ensure this opportunity is given to young people’.
It is through the sheer enjoyment of children on site at the WPNSA that form the foundations to ensure sustainable opportunities are provided for following generations. The sheltered aspect of Portland Harbour is the ideal platform in which to develop water based skills within an area that is recognised as having some of the best boating waters on the planet.
Children come to the venue in order to enjoy their chosen sport including; sailing, windsurfing, dragon boating, raft building and windsurfing, or to watch their parents train and compete or work on site as well as through organised school visits and local community events. It is the overall aim of the WPNSA to cultivate this welcoming atmosphere for young people in order that they can savour the taste of fun in sport for years to come.
The UK currently has the worst obesity rate in Europe and with childhood obesity becoming a reality rather than a risk during this decade there is ample requirement to spearhead any sports venue that attracts the attention of the younger generation. In fact 1 in 7 European children are either overweight or obese and only 1 in 5 children exercise regularly. The Games cannot come at a better time for these young people; it will contribute in propelling them to make healthy choices early on and getting active with their friends. The children of today will remember the significance of the Games coming to the UK with life long memories generated from the ‘summer of sport’ that will influence their overall life time involvement with sport.
John Tweed, Chief Executive of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, is proud to see the 500 days to the Games turning point at the venue, ‘the WPNSA is very much a venue primed to host the Games next summer and the work that has ensured the Games will be a success has really stimulated a strong youth interest that I feel will continue in the long term through satisfying this highly influential sector of the sporting population.’
500 days to go also marks the moment that the application process for London 2012 Olympic Games tickets opens. Tickets are available across 26 sports and 645 sessions and people can apply for tickets for the Games between March 15 and April 26 at www.tickets.london2012.com. It is not a first come, first served system so applications can be made at any point during the period. Prices start at £20 for adults and there are special prices for young people under 16 and those over 60 at over 200 sessions. The London Organising Committee is currently undertaking the formal pre-planning consultation to seek the views of Weymouth and Portland residents with a view to offering a ticketed spectator experience in the Nothe Gardens, Weymouth for the duration of the London 2012 Olympic sailing competition. The consultation period will run until 31 March 2011.
The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy will continue to engage as many people as possible with the world of water sports and commit to continuing this thrust into active sport for generations to come.