The “Olympic effect” will be felt long after the Jamaican team has left the University of Birmingham, the university’s director of sport has said.
Having the elite team train at the Edgbaston campus for their vital pre-Games camp was a huge vote of confidence for Birmingham.
University director of sport Zena Wooldridge said the athletes’ welfare was always top priority, but their presence will “no doubt” help cement the institution’s reputation as one of best sporting universities in the UK – and the world.
The Jamaican training camp comes after the university submitted a plans to Birmingham City Council in April for a £55 million sports centre, which will include the city’s only Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Months of preparation went into the training camp, from a special Jamaican menu to ordering extra-long beds to accommodate 6ft 5ins sprint star Usain Bolt and his taller teammates.
Access to the athletes was strictly controlled to make sure the squad had the best chance at preparing for the games. But having the fastest man on the planet practising his sprint starts on the university’s running track, Birmingham has been the focus for many of the world’s media in the run-up to the games.
Ms Wooldridge said: “We are a leading sporting university in the UK, we are a global university, so to be associated with the Jamaican team has been very important to us.
“Our focus is about making sure the food is right and the training conditions are right to make sure we give the Jamaican team the opportunity to win as many medals as they absolutely possibly can.
“The publicity and the profile we have had around this has been an added bonus. In terms of recruitment of students and in terms of our general reputation it can only have done us good, so we are very happy to be associated with the best track and field team on the planet.”
Athletes were housed in Horton Grange, an Edwardian mansion at the university’s Conference Park and minutes away from the track and other sports facilities, as well as dedicated dining and relaxation areas.
A 75-strong team of volunteers were also recruited to look after the athletes, from taking them out on trips to setting the starting blocks on the track.
Jamaican running legend Don Quarrie, who is now the team’s technical athletics manager, said Birmingham had raised the bar for training camps in the future.
He said: “We knew that London was going to be a special Olympics for us.
“We knew that when we had to make a decision on a place that would be suitable and capable of housing our athletes in a nice, relaxed manner we chose Birmingham, and we are not in any way disappointed.
“The atmosphere is calm, at night everything is calm. The athletes are not interested in going out because they have been provided with entertainment like dominoes and things like that.
“Most of all, everywhere you go, there have been volunteers making sure you are OK.
“Zena and her staff have done so much – they may have spoiled us even. It is something we are going to look to as far as the future of training camps go.”
As team Jamaica travel south and set their sights on Olympic gold, thoughts at the university turn to the planned new sports centre, which is part of a £175 million transformation of the Edgbaston campus.
It will replace the existing Munrow Sports Centre, which university bosses say is “too small and tired”.
Plans for the sports centre include a swimming pool with seating for up to 240 spectators, a “triple sports hall” which will host national sporting events, as well as a gym where students can take part in activities including fencing, table tennis and martial arts.