By Tom Degun in Basildon

Stephen Castle_with_first_spadeOctober 14 - Gloucester Park in Basildon, Essex today held a launch event to celebrate the beginning of the construction of a £38 million Sporting Village that is set to be a pre-London 2012 training camp.

The project, which due to be completed in April 2011, will feature Essex’s first 50-metre Olympic sized-swimming pool as well as a variety of other facilities such as a gymnastics centre, sports hall, fitness centre and a multi-purpose studio.

Basildon Sporting Village is being touted to host one of the major nations in the lead up to London 2012 with superpowers such Russia having been approached.

In attendance at the launch were Mo Larkin, the chair of the Basildon Council, Stephen Castle, the Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Education and the 2012 Games, and Essex’s own Paralympic gold medal winner Danny Crates.

Larkin and Castle were on hand to put the first "spade in the ground" that marked the official start of construction while a time capsule was buried in the ground by local schoolchildren from Janet Duke Primary School.

Larkin said: "It's absolutely fantastic that we’re going to have a facility like this.

"Having a world class venue in Basildon that may well host a major nation ahead of London 2012 will hopefully inspire local children to bring Olympic gold back to the area in 2016."

Castle, who was a major driving force in getting the project up and running, told insidethegames: "We've had to work very hard to persuade people that this is a good use of public money and I think we've finally done that so I’m very excited and very proud about this project.

"What the London Olympics has done is help to persuade people to provide the funds for a sporting project like this."

Castle also revealed that Basildon faces stiff competition to get a major nation stationed at the village ahead of the 2012 Games.

He said: "We're talking to lots of people like many other parts of the UK are.

"There are a lot of communities in competition with each other to attract teams which is fantastic.

"We're in competition with places like Sheffield, Bath and Loughborough who have a much bigger range of accommodation [than Basildon] but the big attraction with here is that its so close to the Olympic site and for a lot of teams that’s really important.

"But yes, we’ve been talking to teams from quite literally right across the world that are interested in staying in the South East of England."

Crates said: "I'm absolutely delighted.

"This is not just a new sporting facility that’s being built, this is a world-class sporting facility and it’s being built here in Basildon.

"You imagine this place ahead of 2012 when there could be elite Olympic and Paralympic athletes training here from abroad as well as at home.

"That will be fantastic and if that is not enough to inspire people, I don’t know what will.

"I been fortunate enough to compete at the Paralympics and you realise there that not just the host city, but the host nation comes alive with excitement once the Games take place and that will be what it is like here and across Britain when we get to London 2012."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]arasport.biz


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