It's 200 miles north of Stratford but Bradford is getting into the Olympic spirit anyway


It may be 200 miles north of the real Olympic village but Bradford has in recent days been enjoying its own mini-version of Pierre de Coubertin's idealistic vision of international sporting community.

In the refectory of the new college building, blue-tracksuited Tanzanian long distance runners Samson Ramadhan and Zakia Mrisho were piling their plates a little warily with fish, chips, rice and mushy peas after a morning spent grinding out miles along the Aire Valley in the inevitable Yorkshire rain.

In the gymnasium, petite gymnasts from Vietnam were going through their routines in preparation for competition.

Meanwhile, in the ring of the Bradford Police and College Boxing Academy, Nigeria's Edith Oqoke was showing off her considerable pugilistic skills in front of children from local schools and the Lord Mayors of Bradford and Keighley.

Female boxing is making its Olympic debut at London 2012 and there are high hopes that fight fans will be converted by the discipline's unique blend of athleticism, skill and power.

The 21-year-old from Imo State is hopeful of a medal after putting in a strong performance at the world championships in China earlier this year.

And in an unexpected turn of events the Nigerian sporting authorities have been so impressed with the level of support they have received for their top star from Bradford head coach Kevin Smith, whose day job is teaching students sports NVQs, that he is to accompany the team down to Stratford next week to get them ready for the games.

"We get on great," said Ms Oqoke. "Kevin is good to go. He is a great coach, very persistent and above all very calm. Calculated and focused," she added.

"I had heard that English people were not very friendly but I was shocked. They were very very friendly to me," she added.

Mr Smith has prepared many young boxers including Team GB fighters Tom Stalker and Josh Taylor but this is the first time he has got to work directly with Olympic contenders - overseeing the gruelling training schedule in the lead up to the opening bout.

"If you haven't seen female boxing before you will be astounded. They are more skilful than a lot of men - less powerful - but some of them are technically perfect," he said. Win or lose Mr Smith now hopes to travel to Nigeria after the closing ceremony to continue Bradford's association with the team and the African sporting authorities.

The city has been enjoying its share of the Olympic spoils. The athletes were cheered by crowds when they turned out to watch the arrival of the Olympic Torch earlier this month.

They have been honoured with a civic reception and dinner at the university and made a lot of friends - even if they have struggled with the food and weather at times.

For the city itself there are economic benefits from hosting the pre games training camp. It has brought £200,000 into the economy and training camp status helped secure a further £300,000 of investment for the new boxing centre which will also be used by Indian and Chinese athletes in the run up to the games.

Bradford College's Ronnie Todd helped negotiate the training camp contracts and is delighted with how things have worked out.

"We have wanted to make them part of our community here and they have wanted to be part of the city. That is the proper Olympic spirit. We all want the Nigerians and the others here to win gold medals but at the same time we embrace the Olympic spirit which is all about sisterhood and brotherhood," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power