A year on from the London Olympics and Lee Valley’s white water centre is reaping the benefits of a sport that was, before the global event, virtually unknown to the mass public.
The centre in Hertfordshire has been a revelation in terms of sport participation since the Olympics, with thousands flocking to the venue to try their hand at kayaking, canoeing or rafting.
With £870,000 of National Lottery funding the sport received from Sport England, the centre has opened a new pavilion overlooking the Olympic course and features additional catering facilities, an outdoor classroom and extra space for shade and shelter.
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, opened the new pavilion and was delighted with how well the sport is doing post-Olympics.
“Nearly a year on, the Lee Valley Water Centre is a fantastic example of the London 2012 legacy in action, and the extra investment will make it an even better venue,” she said. “The centre was a huge success last summer for Team GB, and today young people are getting the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our inspiring British athletes, competing at the same venue. The centre will continue to inspire future generations of athletes as part of the Olympic legacy and we’ll see the elite athletes back here for the 2015 Canoe Slalom World Championships.”
Gold medallists Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie were also on hand to witness how much the sport has progressed a year on from their success at Lee Valley’s Olympic course.
Baillie was especially pleased that it will help the future of the sport, commenting: “We hope that we can inspire more young people to take up paddle sports and having these facilities can help to unearth future champions.”
This Saturday, Lee Valley will play host to a new initiative called the Talent Identification Programme that will seek out and create opportunities for fifteen of the most gifted and talented children from Lee Valley’s non-paddling secondary schools.
The Olympic legacy had till now mainly focused on schools that already had experience in paddling sports, but now this initiative will target the much wider agenda of giving opportunities that not many other children are usually able to have.
The top fifty children – based on basic fitness tests conducted at their schools – will have the opportunity to trial this new programme and show that this country can develop the sport even further.
A year on from the Olympics and already the legacy at the Lee Valley white water centre is surpassing all expectations, a feat that has been achieved by hard work and commitment from all involved.