It was announced yesterday that Crystal Palace National Sports Centre is to be the training base for Brazil’s Olympic team next year, a deal which might even see Brazilian football skills on show at Selhurst Park.
It’s an important boost for the ageing sports centre, given added significance with Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. The Brazilians’ presence will inevitably provide a cash injection for local hotels and businesses in the months before the Games, which begin on July 27, 2012 – now just 478 days away and counting.
It is a rare announcement of the spreading of the “Olympic effect” south of the river, with so much of the £9.2 billion Games spend being focused on regenerating a swathe of derelict east London.
Crystal Palace has been on a list of potential training venues for more than a year, and many of the bigger national Olympic teams have already been allocated elsewhere around Britain. Yesterday also saw it announced that Nigeria would be based at Guildford, for instance.
It was noticeable at a public sports debate staged at the old County Hall last night, when a sixth form pupil from Wallington put a pointed question to a panel of senior sports officials about the Olympic legacy benefits in this part of outer London, the best answer he was given was that the Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford will be Europe’s largest.
Given that the panel offering that answer included the Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson and Old Walcountian Paul Deighton, the chief executive of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), this was hardly an encouraging response for south Londoners.
Crystal Palace has been given a £17 million revamp recently – it required the complete stripping of the asbestos built into the roof of the 50-year-old swimming and sports hall, for instance. Yet the Palace’s 50-metre pool remains a rare Olympic-sized swim facility in the UK; even when the pools in the Olympic Park are finally opened (behind schedule), Warsaw, in Poland, and Nairobi, in Kenya, will still have more 50-metre pools than the whole of London.
Brazilian Olympic teams are noted for their outstanding basketball, beach volleyball, diving, swimming and taekwondo competitors. The Olympic football tournaments, at under-23 level for men and for women, will have matches played around the country, but the Brazilians are sure to require some form of warm-up games, which could see Selhurst Park called upon.
An estimated 200 Team Brazil competitors and officials will use Crystal Palace’s facilities. The sports centre will also house all members of the Brazilian delegation not accredited to the Olympic Village.