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SHOOTING THE BOLT

20-02-2010

Some of the finest athletes in the world will be coming to Birmingham as part of their preparations for the 2010 2 Olympics. That’s good news, isn’t it?

After months of negotiations, and what seems like an even longer period of self-congratulation, Birmingham city council will today finally be signing a deal that will see the Jamaican track & field team train in the city ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

Usain Bolt and co will be based at the University of Birmingham and the deal means the city will now play host to two high profile training camps ahead of the 2012 Games – following last year’s agreement with the USA track & field team.

The Jamaican deal will be formally signed today by council leader Cllr Mike Whitby, Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association President Howard Aris and University of Birmingham Vice Chancellor and Principal David Eastwood.

However, it’s all well and good having these supposedly high-profile events taking place but what will the city get out of them? Will there be an opportunity to watch the big names train, or will they spend all their time surrounded by intensive security?

Will there be any ultimate benefit to the city? Mike Whitby has claimed £15 million worth of economic benefits and points to the city’s historic links with the Caribbean. How much of this money will the city see (and how much of it will be in the form of minimum wage payments to cleaners and waiting staff)? And how many of the city’s black community will be inspired by the knowledge that a few miles away a distant relative might be training for the Olympics?

Maybe I’m wrong and these training camps will be a great success for the city. The council should certainly be congratulated for having the initiative to make sure both teams are training here. But ultimately, it all seems a bit too eager to attract some second-hand glamour.

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