11 March 2008
The North East has been handed a golden opportunity to capitalise on the “London 2012” effect with UK Athletics today announcing that the showpiece Norwich Union British Grand Prix will be held in Gateshead until 2010.
Traditionally the meeting was moved from city to city on an annual basis, but the three-year deal gives Gateshead one of the biggest events in the main Olympic sport as the country builds towards the 2012 Games in London.
And the new deal could get off to the best possible start with the event taking place just one week after the close of the Beijing Olympics.
UK Athletics hopes the attraction of watching a host of new British and overseas Beijing Olympic medallists will ensure this event reaches a sell out of near 12,000. Tickets go on sale today with a limited “early bird” discount on offer.
Former Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards has urged the North East public to get behind the Norwich Union British Grand Prix.
“This is fantastic news for Gateshead and the whole of the North East. To have an athletics event of this scale on our doorstep during the countdown to 2012 should prove a further motivation for everyone connected with the sport in the area. In my day big track events like this in the North East were not an annual occurrence. I hope everyone takes full advantage of it.”
UK Athletics chief executive Niels de Vos added: “The North East has a fantastic athletics’ heritage and I know how much our athletes will enjoy competing regularly at Gateshead.
“I'm delighted that the first year of this three year partnership is in Olympic year which will give athletics fans in the region the first chance to welcome back our Olympians and be amongst the first in the world to celebrate what I hope will be some great medals."
Gateshead Council cabinet member responsible for culture, Cllr Linda Green said: "The next couple of years are really stacking up to be fantastic years for sport in Gateshead. We've already had the news that we have been selected as a potential training camp for the London 2012 Olympics but this announcement of regular world class athletics really does reinforce what a superb offer we have for athletes here in Gateshead.
"I'm sure we can look forward to a large crowd at the Gateshead International Stadium to support the athletes in this Olympic year."
The Norwich Union British Grand Prix is part of NewcastleGateshead's world-class festivals and events programme, managed by culture10, based at NewcastleGateshead Initiative.
Stella Hall, Creative Director at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: "We are delighted to support this year's Norwich Union British Grand Prix. It is a huge coup for NewcastleGateshead as one of only three world-class athletics events taking place in the UK this year, and will include a host of elite athletes fresh from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. There is no doubt that it can only help to cement the region's reputation as one of the best places to watch major sporting events."