Sports politics: BOA backs Cotswolds' academy bid

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The Independent Online
The British Olympic Association announced yesterday that it wants the National Academy of Sport to be located at the former US Air Force base in Upper Heyford.

Craig Reedie, the BOA chairman, pledged annual funding of pounds 1m for the academy if it is built in the Cotswolds, which his organisation has chosen ahead of 24 other bidders, including Birmingham, Liverpool and London. The Prime Minister has already promised up to pounds 100m of Lottery money for an academy of sport and the Heyford bid has an additional pounds 75m in private-sector backing, largely from developers.

Reedie said it could ensure "that every sportsman and sportswoman who has the capacity to excel at international level will enjoy the highest standards of coaching, sports medicine and sports science."

Those are the areas which the BOA has developed over the last 10 years, and it is anxious to retain its influence in the new scheme of things. "We are an independent, non-Governmental body, and we have been asked to bid just like anyone else," a BOA spokesperson said. "We have built up an expertise over the last decade and we don't want to lose it to someone who may feel they can do better. In an ideal world, we would like to work with the Upper Heyford scheme."

A spokesman for Birmingham expressed disappointment at the BOA's position. "For such a judgement to have validity, it should be made after looking at the detailed proposals from all bidders, which were submitted on 31 October," he said.

Launching the bid at a news conference, the former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, who represents the Heyford area, said: "Sport is, or should be, one of Britain's major assets in the world. We have not been doing as well as we should. We need to look at that and find ways to remedy it."