Leeds wins race to host China's Olympic stars

It is the other Olympic gold rush – the battle between British towns to persuade the world's elite athletes to set up training camps at local leisure centres in the month before the 2012 London Olympic games.

The pre-Games camps will, it is hoped, bring millions of pounds in revenue to towns and cities outside London, as well as some of the biggest sporting stars to a swimming pool or school running track near you.

Yesterday it was the turn of Leeds, who have landed one of the biggest coups of the Olympic build-up by signing the Chinese track and field team to train at the city's facilities. As a result, the world's most popular athlete will come to the City in just over a year – the Chinese sprint hurdler Liu Xiang.

His last-minute withdrawal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics because of injury shattered the hopes of 1.3 billion of his fellow Chinese, but he has since bounced back and in London 2012 will once again be the focus of attention for the world's emerging sporting super power's vaunting Olympic ambition.

The Chinese Athletic Association confirmed that the 27-year-old and the 50-strong Chinese track and field team will base themselves at a university and sports centre in the city as they prepare for glory in the Olympic stadium.

The Leeds deal is the 66th signed so far. People in Birmingham have been looking forward to the chance to see the fastest man on earth, Usain Bolt, and the rest of the Jamaican team get ready for their events. US track and field teams will also train in the city.

The arrival of stars to train in local pools and tracks is being hailed as one of the key benefits for areas outside the capital which critics claim are in danger of missing out while the world's eyes are fixed on events in London.

It is not just confined to big name athletes. From the Kenyans in Bristol to the Namibian national team in Glasgow, London 2012 organisers believe the camps will provide the opportunity for ordinary sports fans to come face to face with the Olympic and Paralympic heroes as they prepare for their big day – inspiring a new generation of home-grown winners.

In Beijing, China topped the medal table for the first time winning 50 golds from a total medal haul of 100 – eclipsing second-place United States, which won 26 golds. Next summer Chinese athletes will use facilities at Leeds Metropolitan University's state-of-the-art Headingley Carnegie campus and the John Charles Centre for Sport as they acclimatise to conditions in the UK ahead of the event in July.

Leeds will be paid by the Chinese to host its athletes while the London Organising Committee has offered incentives of £25,000 to Olympic and Paralympic associations to come to the UK to prepare.

Leeds has already signed up Dutch and Serbian teams, while the US diving team will train close by in Sheffield. Both cities are hopeful of attracting more sports stars, including the Chinese swimming team, which includes one of the brightest hopes for the Games, 14-year-old Ye Shiwen.

In an awesome sign of its 2012 intent, China dominated the Asian Games in November winning a record 199 golds. Liu Xiang signaled his return by recording the third fastest time that year.

Lord Coe, chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee said: "Having grown up in the county, I'm delighted that Yorkshire people, and especially the Chinese community, will be sharing in the excitement of the Games in their own back yard."

Today the schedule of Olympic events is being published to mark 500 days until the opening, while tickets for the Games go on sale next month.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future