Olympic Legacy in Action at Lee Valley White Water Centre
Lee Valley White Water Centre, purpose-built for the 2012 London Olympics, has gone from strength to strength following the Games and is now a shining example of Olympic legacy in action. The venue, which is now home to British canoeing’s senior slalom squad, has already hosted the successful ICF 2014 Canoe Slalom World Cup and this year will be welcoming the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships back to the UK for the first time in 20 twenty years.
Thanks to the support of National Lottery funding, British canoeing has been able to establish a purpose-built high performance centre at Lee Valley as part of a £6.3 million legacy initiative at the site. The centre, which opened in February 2014, includes a state-of-the-art gym and physiotherapy suite, athletes’ lounge, coaches’ offices, performance analysis room, meeting rooms and a new boat shed compound.
The high performance centre is now the base for British canoeing’s senior slalom squad athletes and locally based podium development athletes, keen to take advantage of what is without doubt, one of the very best white water facilities in the world.
British Canoeing Performance Director John Anderson MBE said: “Our athletes are benefitting enormously from the wonderful facilities at Lee Valley which are the best in the world and I would like to pay tribute to the government for their vision to invest not only in one of the most iconic venues of the London 2012 Olympics, but in a permanent facility which with continued investment from Sport England, UK Sport and ourselves and a strong partnership with Lee Valley Park Authority, has resulted in a magnificent legacy for the area and our sport. The course was always world class, but with this new high performance centre we now have gold standard facilities for our athletes and there is no better training environment for any lottery funded athlete in the UK.
“Creating an Olympic course and a ‘legacy’ channel from the outset was the jewel in the crown. We knew a long time before the Games this was our big opportunity and within three months of the Games we profiled hundreds of youngsters in schools and brought a number of them to the try out the sport. Two years later many of these ‘rapid talent’ athletes are marching up the slalom divisions and we have had two further intakes, with as many girls as boys. All in all thousands of youngsters from the London area have been attracted into the sport. It has really connected us with the local community and just shows what can be done if you have that vision and put the right resources in.
“What we have here on a daily basis is Olympic medallists, senior squad and Olympic development athletes training on the Olympic channel. Then alongside them we have ‘rapid talent’ youngsters on the legacy course and we also bring in regional groups to train on a regular basis. It is just fantastic to see them all on the water, all integrated – the complete package.
“Coupled with the investment from Sport England and UK Sport into our Athlete Development programme, it really has created a super centre for canoe slalom. There is great work going on out in the clubs and in the regions, and what we have got here is a model which will supplement and strengthen our overall talent pool and help to create the slalom medallists of 2024 and 2028.”
As well as providing state-of-the-art training facilities for British canoeing’s athletes, Lee Valley White Water Centre has also helped attracted world-class events to the UK. Following the successful hosting of the first race of the 2014 World Cup series, the venue will welcome the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships back to Britain in September this year, when the world’s top paddlers will have the opportunity to qualify places for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The World Championships is sure to provide some thrilling racing and London 2012 and the 2014 World Cup have shown the British public has a real passion for canoe slalom. With the enthusiastic local support, as well as a strong contingent of international followers, the 2015 World Championships is expected to attract a large, vocal crowd and with an array of free family-friendly activities on offer, the event is set to have a real festival atmosphere and prove a great day out for spectators.
John Anderson added: “Our bid to host the 2015 World Championships was always part of our legacy plans to ensure the Games weren’t a one-off and will provide a further opportunity to showcase the sport and inspire even more youngsters to get involved.
“This is the real value and legacy of the 2012 London Olympic Games and we are extremely proud of our achievements as a sport and as a nation.”
It’s not just elite athletes and the next generation of Olympic hopefuls benefitting from the legacy of the London 2012, however. The versatile, world-class venue offers both a 300m Olympic standard competition course and a 160m legacy loop suitable for beginners and there are a whole host of activities available, meaning anyone inspired by the Games can take to the water and get involved.
The post-Games redevelopment of the site provided improved facilities for the thousands of visitors who enjoy the popular rafting and paddling activities, including more changing rooms, an expanded cafe with a bigger outdoor terracing area and a new pavilion. The new resident paddle sports club is thriving and since opening, the centre has attracted around 613,000 visitors with 94,000 people having rafted and over 50,000 participants having tried canoeing or kayaking.