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Legacy of 2012 lives on in Medway

Medway, midpoint between the capital and the continent, is continuing to develop its sporting legacy 10 years since launching its Olympic ambitions.

On 23 January 2007 Medway Council marked 2,012 days to go until the 2012 London Olympic Games at an event supported by five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave and fellow Team GB Olympians Steve Backley and Steve Cram.

A decade on, Medway, the largest urban area east of London, continues to move forward with its Olympic legacy dreams, as well as its reputation as a renowned sporting venue and facility that provides opportunities for aspiring young athletes.

Paralympic ski champion Charlotte Evans, Rugby World Cup winner Rachael Burford and Olympic trampolinist Kat Driscoll grew up in Medway, and Olympic gold hockey medallist goalkeeper Maddie Hinch is just one of the sporting stars who has trained in the area. Medway has also recently welcomed double Olympic gold medallist Max Whitlock, who attended the council-organised Medway Sports Awards and honoured the local sporting community.

World-class facility

In 2009 Medway Council won a national award for its work in preparing for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Sustainable Communities Award is the UK’s largest community award and is sponsored by the Health Service Journal and Local Government Chronicle.

Medway Council was recognised for its plans to redevelop one of its seven leisure centres into an £11million regional centre of sporting excellence. Today Medway Park is a world-class facility that elite athletes use for training and competitions, and is used by residents. Around two-and-a-half million people walk through the doors of Medway Council’s high-tech sports centres each year.

Medway Park is the home of England Wheelchair Rugby League, and made British handball history in November 2016 when it hosted an international women’s handball tournament, for the first time in the United Kingdom. Medway Park has hosted a range of international events, including:

  • Tour de France 2007,
  • World Cup and European Championship events in modern pentathlon,
  • Wheelchair Rugby League World Cups and European Championships,
  • Olympic athletes in the weeks before they competed at the London Games,
  • and international events in table tennis, fencing, handball, sitting volleyball and judo.

Providing opportunities for everyone

Medway’s sporting legacy, built off the back of the success of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, is encouraging local people of all abilities to play, compete and spectate every day. The area has excellent facilities, including specialist gym equipment, for those with a disability. The council also organises annual events for people of all ages and abilities to try Paralympic sports - as the Paralympic Games got underway in Rio, Medway Park hosted a Disability Sport Open Day organised by the council and Medway Community Healthcare.

The council recognises the importance of sport for people’s health and works closely with its Public Health team, as well as healthcare professionals in partner agencies to refer individuals to exercise classes. Medway Council is also working hard to tackle the national issue of obesity and help reduce the economic burden on the NHS.

The Medway Mile was born 10 years ago. The mass participation event encourages people of all ages to get together and walk or run through the streets of historic Rochester. The event, which finishes with the spectacular backdrop of Rochester Castle, helps to get Medway moving and encourages participation in local activities. Medway Council also hosts yearly mass participation events, such as the Big Ride and Big Splash. 

Encouraging active lifestyles

Supporting grassroot sports is also a fundamental element of the council’s activity and it works closely with local sports clubs. In partnership with the Medway Youth Service, Medway Council has been working closely with the Street Games charity to set up Doorstep Sport Clubs. This provides opportunities for everyone in the community to get involved in sport.

Medway Council is also encouraging active lifestyles from an early age. In September 2016 Medway Council, with the help of footballers from Gillingham FC and Charlton Athletic, launched the School Mile initiative. This encourages children to regularly take part in 15 minutes of activity, averaging a mile. The last 10 years has also seen a growth in Medway’s school sport programme with thousands of children taking part in the Mini Youth Games series of sporting events and its associated coaching programmes.
The council is also rolling out a £2.5million programme of cycle routes, providing a network of sporting and recreational routes.

Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, said: “Sport has a unique power to change lives for the better. It brings communities together, has a positive impact on mental as well as physical health and teaches people valuable life lessons, whether that's teamwork or striving to be the best you can be.

“Medway Council’s sporting legacy chimes with the government's own aim to get more people active and give children a great experience of sport. The council not only supports the grassroots, providing opportunities to all, but also is a base for talent development too.”

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Services Cllr Howard Doe said: “We had a big task ahead of us in the build up to the 2012 Olympics. The council had huge ambitions to make the most of having the Olympics on our doorstep, just 35 minutes away from London on the HS1, and our teams set to work to turn those ambitions into reality.

“A lot has happened in ten years, and Medway Park, Medway’s regional centre of sporting excellence, has to be one of the most successful outcomes. The former Black Lion leisure centre underwent an £11m makeover to become the international sporting events venue it is today, as well as a first class facility for local people.

“Our work is not done though, we must continue to deliver exciting sporting events and opportunities for residents, enabling everyone, no matter their age, ability or budget, to be able to prioritise their health and get active. Medway’s sporting legacy has flourished over the past ten years, and I hope that will continue for decades to come.”