The success of the London bid to host the Olympic Games in 2012 has raised the profile of sport in this country to a new high in the British media. As Tessa Sanderson, our former Olympic gold medalist in the javelin commented after the successful bid, “Sport can now become cool!” The 2012 Games is focusing the minds of politicians, sports administrators and supporters and even the non-sporting general public on a number of issues, not least as to whether capital and revenue funding for sport in this country is adequate. Failure to allocate sufficient resources will not only compromise our chances of success at the Games, but it will reveal an abject failure to support all of our youngsters who have been motivated to take part in sport by the glamour of the Olympic movement. These youngsters crucially include an enormous number who have no real chance of Olympic glory. But everyone now has the opportunity to contribute to our nations sporting future, even if that contribution is small. We at the University of Warwick have a significant opportunity to improve access to sport for all and enhance the opportunity of many to gain sporting success.
The Director of Physical Education and Sport and his team are currently very active in supporting regional and sub-regional initiatives to both support our aspiring future Olympic athletes, as well as bringing benefits to the University as our sporting authorities prepare for 2012. The Director now chairs a Coventry and Warwickshire working party commissioned to attract possible Olympic teams from around the world to base their athletes in our locality as a training base. The outstanding sports facilities, campus-based accommodation and excellent support services of the University, supported by other excellent sports facilities and expertise in Coventry and Warwickshire makes the sub-region an ideal location. We are also endeavouring to attract major sports organisations and events to come to the University to benefit from our sports facilities and event management expertise. We are currently finalising our bid to host the 2009 British Transplant Games, a major, multi-sports event. Experience gained in hosting 1500 youngsters and coaches from over 50 cities from around the world in July 2005 at the International Children’s Games, an event supported by the International Olympic Association, will once again prove invaluable in planning the 2009 event.
The support given by the University of Warwick for sport is not restricted to the elite end of the sporting continuum. Over 1000 members of the local community have joined specific sports schemes in order to regularly visit our sports centres. In addition, many 1000s of individuals, drawn from the general public, take advantage of the University’s sports facilities every year, be they climbers visiting the Bear Rock Indoor Climbing Centre or athletes from school pupil to international competitor on the Westwood athletics track, now boasting a Mondo running surface, the chosen product for all major tracks around the world. Our outdoor sports pitches also regularly provide a venue for matches for girls and boys that include local youngsters through to those currently playing at the elite level of their chosen sports. The University now regularly hosts the Premier Cup, sponsored by Nike, involving Academy teams from all of the football clubs of the Premier League. The Cryfield football pitches are also the venue for the country’s aspiring top coaches to gain their international accreditation awards.
We can be justifiable proud as a centre for sport, with a user-base drawn from across the region, the nation and increasingly the world, offering support for all individuals wishing to pursue their sporting dreams, regardless of their skill or experience. Crucially the sporting aspirations of our own University Community of over 20,000 are not compromised by this friendly and very welcoming ‘open door’ policy. In reality, the policy significantly enhances the sporting experience of staff and students. The recently published Times University Guide 2007 confirmed the position of the University of Warwick as one of the premier UK universities in terms of the range and quality of our sports facilities and their availability to all.