Gale's View (September 3rd 2008)
A pity, perhaps, that the event did not receive better promotion but nevertheless great that The Bay was one of the few towns in the South East to respond to the challenge and to stage, as the finale to the festival, an Olympics 2012 welcome party.
Herne Bay has, after all, a wealth of keen, young, sporting talent that will be looking forward eagerly to "Ping Pong Coming Home"! We have football, we have cricket, we have hockey, we have tennis, we have sailing and canoeing and field and track athletes and roadrunners an d horse riders. We have an excellent swimming squad and, of course, we host the UKs only international standard roller hockey team.
That is why I continue to press the case for the development of a high-quality indoor/outdoor sports facility to serve the majority of the citizens of Canterbury City District who live on the coastal strip and in the surrounding villages. Our young sportsmen and women need, if they are to make the grade in 2012, world-class training facilities and a city of the international stature and importance of Canterbury ought to be able to generate the funding to provide such facilities. Trumpeting the handover of the Olympic torch is a fine thing but will not, of itself, deliver the goods and fine words need, locally and nationally, to be matched with fine actions.
Which brings me to our swimming club and the need for Olympic Standard training facilities for that particular discipline. Government has been issuing press releases about its "free swimming programme" and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham, is "keen to encourage as many local authorities as possible to participate in making swimming free for the over 60s and the under 16s in their local communities ". And so am I.
But I want a great deal more than that. I think that the County that was taken to the top of the Local Government Premier League by the late and much-loved Sandy Bruce Lockhart, ought to be able to boast at least one Olympic Standard 50-metre pool, preferably with diving facilities, within its boundaries. We are the best. We are on the doorstep of the Olympic Village. We have a plethora of young swimming squads in East Kent and among those young people are potential medal winners. I have been privileged to work with two Olympians, Daley Thompson and Sharron Davies, and I know from them that time spent on the road travelling to far-too-distant training facilities is time spent not bringing the body and mind to the peak of physical fitness necessary to bring home the gold. Are we serious about our commitment to sport or are we not? If the answer is yes then let us start now to deliver in short order the pool that we need either on the Kent University campus site or, if they remain lukewarm about the idea, at one of several other suitable sites in the County so that we can invite our athletes to spend time training rather than travelling.
It should not be a question of "can we afford to do it" but a question of "can we afford not to do it"?