The legendary athlete and head of Britain’s next Olympic Games, Seb Coe hailed Birmingham as “one of the jewels in the crown” in the sporting world.
Lord Coe visited the city to meet members of the West Midlands Youth Parliament and tour the new £7.5 million Gymnastics and Martial Arts Centre, at Alexander Stadium, yesterday.
The Olympic gold medallist said he was more excited about the country’s first Olympics in 60 years, than during the bidding stage for the 2012 games.
Even though the global economy is very different, he said the benefits of the games would be more “profound” for Birmingham and the UK.
He said it was believed £6 billion worth of business could be made and not all in London. Half the business opportunities are going throughout the UK, he said, and 30 per cent of them in the region.
“Birmingham is one of the jewels in the crown in terms of sport,” he said. “Something like 90 per cent of championships that have come to Britain in the last decade or so, have come to Birmingham or the West Midlands so this is an area that really does understand the impact of sport. Birmingham bid for an Olympic Games in the 80s so really understands what the Olympic movement is about.”
Coun Ray Hassall, cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said Birmingham was “spreading the word” around the globe about its seven world-class venues which are: GMAC, the High Performance Centre also on the site of the Alexander Stadium, the NIA, NEC, the Munro Centre at Birmingham University and the Priory in Edgbaston.
So far the city has reached a memorandum of understanding with the United States track and field team. Its latest coup was signing another memorandum with the national governing body, British Gymnastics yesterday at GMAC.
He said: “This is the birthplace of champions of the future to come here and develop those skills.
“We can never say we haven’t got the facilities now to produce world champions.”
Lord Coe met pupils from Aston Manor, Perry Beeches and Dorrington schools who have just started gymnastics at the new centre.
He said: “I’ve been coming to Birmingham for many, many years and I was brought up until the age of 11 or 12 in the West Midlands so I understand the nature of sport and how deep it runs in all the communities.
“I’ve never ever felt I’ve been doing anything other than preaching to the converted when I came in the bidding process. Now I’m just bowled over by the projects that I’m seeing that I know would not be taking place had we come back without the prize from Singapore three years ago.”