Olympic champion Sebastian Coe is visiting the North East of England to officially open Gateshead International Stadium's new state-of-the-art development on Friday 12th May 2006.
The new development hosts integrated top quality sports facilities, a community based sports centre and a broad range of sport related education and training programmes in partnership with Gateshead College.
Before officially opening the development, Lord Coe KBE and the leader of Gateshead Council, Councillor Mick Henry, toured the new facility where local school children, Gateshead College students and club athletes were taking part in a team challenge.
Lord Coe said, "I am very grateful for the valuable support that we had from the North East of England during the Olympic Bid and I am pleased to see that the enthusiasm is still extremely high.
"Our vision is to reach young people all around the world and to connect them with the inspirational power of the games - so they are inspired to choose sport. This vision must start right here - at home in the UK and it must involve everyone that has a role in sport.
"We all need to work together to deliver this vision and being asked to come here today to open these fantastic new facilities demonstrates the North East's commitment to investing in sport and that we are already beginning on the journey to realise this vision.
"The Games will only last six weeks but the physical legacy will last for fifty years. And the 'soft' legacy - the social and economic changes that are enshrined in our plans - will last a lifetime."
The project was financed by One NorthEast, Sport England, European Regional Development Fund, Northern Rock Foundation, Learning and Skills Council, Tyne Wear Partnership, Gateshead College and Gateshead Council.
Now owned and managed by Gateshead Council, the stadium was originally opened in 1955 when it consisted of a cinder track and asphalt cycle velodrome. Since then it has played a central role in the community and in the wider region.
Councillor Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council, said: "Every year at Gateshead International Stadium more than 12,000 school children participate in sporting events, over 200,000 local people use the facilities to exercise and a number of different sport clubs are closely associated with the venue.
"Over the years it has made a valuable contribution to the development of athletics in the region, hosting world-class events and supporting up and coming sporting talent."
The two-storey new development comprises an 82 metre athletics training hall with six lane sprints straight, jumps and throws facilities, facilities for sports science, sports medicine, strength and conditioning activity, consulting rooms, classrooms and staff support areas and a fitness room. There is also an outdoor floodlit athletics throws area, three outdoor sports pitches including two floodlit artificial turf pitches.
The centre will be the regional hub site for the English Institute of Sport in the North East. A multi-disciplinary team of EIS support staff will deliver a range of sports science and sports medicine services to the region's top athletes, from a state of the art support centre.
Services on offer to athletes such as Chris Cook and Chris Tomlinson include sports medicine consultations, physiotherapy, physiology, performance analysis, nutrition advice, sports psychology and Performance Lifestyle.
The facility also houses Gateshead College's Academy of Sport, which provides full time courses for more than 300 students, part time courses and programmes for employers. In addition, students can join academies for men and women's football, rugby, netball, basketball and athletics.
Cllr Henry continues, "Even with half a century of sporting achievements behind us, we don't want to stand still. This development has created employment and it has brought students closer to the sporting industry. It has provided greater opportunities for local people to lead healthy and active lifestyles, it gives us the chance to grow and nurture local talent and it provides elite athletes, up to Olympic and international standards, with the facilities they need to thrive. We have no doubt that such a combination can only bring more regeneration to Gateshead and once again put the borough on the map."
Alongside the official opening, workshops were run to make flags and cast young people's feet as part of a project called Streets to Stadium funded by Culture 10, designed to encourage participation in sport and raise profile of new facilities in Gateshead.
English Institute of Sport
Professor Kevin Thompson, Regional Manager
"Traditionally athletes have had to migrate away from the north east because the necessary support wasn't available close to hand, however that's really starting to change. The EIS team here is currently supporting 60 of the regions top lottery funded athletes and I'm sure that figure will continue to rise as more talented youngsters come through and realise that the services they need are being delivered from a state of the art new facility at Gateshead Stadium. We also have partnership arrangements in place with Durham County Cricket Club in terms of providing performance analysis support to their players and also with Newcastle Eagles basketball team in terms of medical support. Several of the region's top athletes, including swimmers Chris Cook and Jo Jackson, have returned from a fantastic Commonwealth Games and have begun their preparations for the Beijing Olympics in a centre with levels of support that rival those available anywhere in the world."
David Cheetham, Principal
"Our new facilities are a flagship for sports education and coaching in the North East and illustrate our commitment to be number one in this field. Our sports provision has gone from strength to strength over the last few years, with hundreds of students from across the region achieving excellent results academically as well as in their chosen sports, with a number of them now competing for their countries at international level."