London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games reporting with Podium

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Featured within this post is written and video London 2012-related content I completed with Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes, Games medallists, politicians, leading London 2012 Games figures, as well as sporting academics, students and Games Makers in my previous role as a reporter for Podium – the Further and Higher Education Unit for the London 2012 Games.

Three-time Olympic Games gold medallist Ben Ainslie

Ben Ainslie backs Further and Higher Education to provide a springboard to success

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie CBE is one of Great Britain’s most decorated athletes of all time. The sailor, who is in line to compete in London (in what would be his fifth Olympic Games), first rose through the ranks as a promising junior in the early 1990s and studied at Peter Symonds College, Winchester, at the same time.

Ainslie’s sailing career began at the age of eight with his family in Restronguet, Cornwall. His father, Roddy, was a sailor who skippered ‘Second Life’ in the first Whitbread Round the World Race of 1973-74.

With the help and support of both his parents, Ainslie started to compete and win tournaments throughout his teenage years, as he was already Laser Radial World Champion by the age of 16.

He soon went onto win his first Olympic medal – silver in the Laser Class at the 1996 Atlanta Games, whilst continuing to study at Peter Symonds Sixth Form College.

“The trade off between studying at college, training and preparing for sailing was always a bit of a battle. I had to be pretty focused and dedicated by working hard on all fronts.

“At the time, it did not leave a huge amount of time for much else in my life, but I was happy. I had to make the decision to stop college for a short period to concentrate on the Olympics, before returning to finish off my exams,” the 34-year-old said.

“As an athlete you need a huge amount of support both financially and emotionally. It takes a lot of understanding from both parties, but for people to do both at the highest level is fantastic. They need to be flexible so they can fit in their training around important competitions.

“For example, the Brownlee brothers are combining the two now. It is enough of a sacrifice training full time in a sport like Triathlon as there are many different elements to it, but to be continuing with their studies as well is very impressive. It shows a lot of determination that they are able to do that and I think it is the right call as well.

“Looking to the future, I think it gives them the opportunities further on in life to do other things and also they are competing in sport for the right reasons, instead of looking at it from a career point of view.”

After completing his studies, Ainslie continued to succeed in sailing, winning the Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games (again in the Laser). Following his second Olympic triumph, he participated in the ‘One World Challenge’ America’s Cup campaign, before returning to Olympic sailing.

Ainslie then switched classes from the Laser to the Finn Class (meaning he had to increase his body weight by 15 kilos to achieve the optimum weight for the larger Finn Class) and he reaped the rewards.

A second gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games in the larger Finn Class followed, before he repeated that same feat four years later in Beijing (2008). His third consecutive gold medal meant he surpassed British sailor Rodney Pattison’s record of two gold and one silver Olympic medals to become Britain’s most successful sailor of all time.

Ainslie, who is also an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, has encouraged young people to get involved as much as possible at the London 2012 Games.

“I think young people should make the most out of the opportunities that are on offer. It is not going to come round again for a long, long time and I would encourage people to grasp it, embrace it and really enjoy the atmosphere.”

The nine-time World and European champion revealed that his own preparations are going well for the Games, as he bids to win a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

“My training is going very well. In terms of my day to day routine, it is a mixture between sailing on the water to improve my skills there, developing and tweaking boat equipment to improve performance and fitness training on land.

“I do a mixture of weight training to control the body rate and aerobic work to make sure I have the endurance to compete at the top level.”

11-time Paralympic gold medallist Tanni Grey-Thompson

11-time Paralympic gold medallist values Further and Higher Education

Tanni Grey-Thompson is without doubt one of Britain’s greatest Paralympians of all time – having won 11 gold medals from five Paralympic Games. Here she tells Podium all about combining her sporting and educational successes…

Grey-Thompson studied at Loughborough University and in 1991, she won the World Wheelchair Games marathon whilst also graduating with an honours degree in Politics and Social Administration.

Grey-Thompson was born in Cardiff and as a young child wore callipers. She started to use a wheelchair from the age of seven. Having begun wheelchair racing at the age of 13 at St. Cyres Comprehensive School, she went onto win the 100 metres at the Junior National Wheelchair Games two years later.

At 18, Grey-Thompson competed in the British Wheelchair Racing Squad and was selected for her first World Wheelchair Games.

Whilst still continuing along the sporting route, Grey-Thompson admitted that her decision to move into Higher Education and study at Loughborough University was influenced by her parents.

“My parents were keen on education and I think that was instilled in me from an early age. My father always used to say to me that education gives you choices and that is really true. Further and higher education is very important because when you are progressing through the ranks as a young athlete, you cannot train for 15 hours a day, you need to do something else in your life too.

“As a young athlete, many think that their career will last into their 30s or so, but the reality is that it does not. Most athletes do not make it, get injured or are not selected – there are all these variables that you have no control over. From that point of view, education is very important, as it gives you something to fall back on. It helps to give you focus about balancing your life.”

In March 2010, Grey-Thompson was named a life peer on the recommendation of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE of Eaglescliffe in the County of Durham now sits as a non-party political crossbencher.

The 42-year-old, who uses her experience and knowledge in debates in the House, revealed that having a degree made it easier for her to move into her current role in Westminster.

“I have always thought that it is important to keep developing skills and my politics degree paid off for me. It certainly contributed to where I am now.

“A tiny percentage of athletes will make enough money to never work again and the reality is that virtually every sports person I know has to get some type of job. It is important to have other interests and other things to talk about apart from training.”

Many Team GB athletes are currently combining their sporting and academic commitments in the build up to the London 2012 Games, and from her experience, Grey-Thompson admitted that it has never been easy to juggle the two.

“There were times when it was difficult doing my finals and training as hard as I had been before, it was a bit of a struggle. I enjoyed training as it was good to get away from studying sometimes.

“At Loughborough, I had around 18-20 hours of contact time a week throughout my degree and the rest was self motivated work. It definitely made it easier to combine the two and fit them into my schedule. Some people can combine both workloads well and take on a lot of studying, but others cannot. I think there is much more understanding now about the nature of part time studying, especially for athletes.”

Grey-Thompson admits that the sporting facilities at Loughborough University have moved on leaps and bounds since she studied there and she believes it will always be a great environment for young athletes to train in.

“The fantastic thing about Loughborough was that there were a lot of people playing sport at a high level and you always had good athletes to train alongside. At the time, though, there was still a lot of negativity surrounding Paralympic sport and some people did not take me seriously as an athlete.

“However, I think that helped me in the long run to deal with some of the other people I have met in my life. University was a great and challenging experience, and in the long run, a pretty good one for me.”

The Paralympic champion’s connection with both further and higher education sectors has continued since her retirement from sport, as she has been awarded with no fewer than 25 academic awards (primarily honorary degrees) from universities and colleges.

“It is great to receive the honorary doctorates as you get to share people’s ceremonies and be part of it. Every single person in the graduation room has been through a different journey to get there. Some have just sailed through and achieved great marks the whole way through, whilst others have struggled.

“It is lovely to see the pride on the families and friends faces and the pride beaming from the students. It is nice for anyone to receive recognition and to be told you have done something well.”

Ahead of the London 2012 Games, Grey-Thompson is delighted with ticket sales for Paralympic events and she even admits that at one point, she considered competing again.

“There is a teeny, teeny part of me that thinks maybe it would be nice to compete but that cannot happen as I am too old and too knackered now! I am just really looking forward to sitting in the stands and watching. The level of interest surrounding Paralympic sports has been huge already and I think it is going to be fantastic.”

Two-time Olympic Games gold medallist and London Organising Committee Chairman for the 2012 Games, Lord Sebastian Coe

Podium’s Stuart Appleby reports on the Association of Colleges (AoC) Conference in Birmingham and he was the first journalist to put questions to chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), Lord Coe.

Lord Coe praises the Further Education sector’s engagement with London 2012

Ghost column with the Olympic gold medal winner:

We have worked very closely with both colleges and universities through our Podium programme. I came to realise how important Podium was going to be during the bidding process for the London 2012 Games.

I recognise the extraordinary wealth of talent there is in Further and Higher Education institutions throughout the country.

If you look at some of the specific needs of our volunteer programmes and some of the specific skills needed for the broader work force then there is a reserve of talent in schools and colleges that we would have been very foolish to turn our backs on. 

I want to encourage colleges to help us and get involved through our Bridging the Gap programme. The scheme will help place SIA licensed young people into the Security and Public Services industry through Further and Higher Education sectors.

We recognised very early on in this process that we would need skilled volunteer security teams and Bridging the Gap has found a very obvious home in education. It is also important that our volunteer programmes are met by some of the skills set and our workforce teams as well. If you look at the 100,000 contractors we are broadly going to need from the 200,000 workforce for the Games in areas like catering, cleaning and security, then these are very obvious homes for a lot of those talents.

I went through the Further and Higher Education process and I am delighted with the role it plays. Hackney Community College is going to be the home for our volunteer training programmes, while the City of Westminster College has been developing skills that are going to be required in some of our catering jobs. 

If you look at some of the things we have been working on within colleges, such as the creation and design of commemorative coins and the involvement in catering skills, many of these have been geared to creating opportunities and upskilling young people for different tasks. These are all very important to get young people understanding more about the London 2012 movement.

We also have our Get Set programme and I have spoken to young people who are supporting teams from Zambia and Ethiopia. Through the eyes of the athletes they understand a little bit more about the world they are living in. Podium has helped us to do exactly the same, albeit at a slightly more advanced level by the implication that those people are slightly older, and it is very important colleges continue to play the role they are. I want them to have the skills set and experiences, which allow them to go onto delivering really smart event management trained people.

I look at the Games through any number of optics. I have been lucky enough to have competed in the Games, I have been lucky enough to have reported, broadcasted and written about the Games in the media, I am vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, I have bid for a Games and helped to deliver one, as well as being involved with the Olympic Movement. I know that Games Makers and volunteers are the difference between a good and a great Games. 

For example, as part of the Bridging the Gap programme, the quality of the security team is not just about securing the venue, it is also to interact with people when they are going through that system. These are really important skills and it is important that we get the right people involved.

When we won the right to stage the Games in London, that day is a day which has continued to deliver lasting inspiration and long term legacy. I went to Singapore to get more young people playing sport but I realised there had to be more to it than that. If you have the opportunity of a lifetime to host 205 nations, where the entire eyes of the world are going to be on your country for the build up and the Games itself, then there are going to be bridgeheads and legacies that we would have been very foolish to have ignored. The opportunity to improve our skills base and meet the ambitions of our nation going forward was a very obvious opportunity.

Lord Coe is Chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOGOC) and he was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby at the AoC Conference in Birmingham on Wednesday 16th November 2011.

The Brownlee Brothers

Higher Education crucial to Brownlee brothers’ success

British brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, two of the world’s top triathletes, are ready to take the London 2012 Games by storm this summer. On top of both their training and ever-increasing media commitments in the run up to the Games, the boys are still studying at their respective universities in Leeds.

Alistair (pictured), who is 23-years-old, gained a 2.1 degree in sport and physiology from the University of Leeds, before going on to study for a MSc in finance at neighbouring Leeds Metropolitan University. Alistair’s brother Jonathan, who is two years younger, is currently studying history at the University of Leeds.

The Yorkshire born pair both revealed how important higher education has been to their careers so far and they told Podium all about combining sporting and academic success.

“Both Leeds universities have a great association with sport. They are really supportive and have always taken our other commitments into account. This coupled with the excellent facilities and great coaching is really important. University is the best option for an athlete,” said Alistair.

Jonathan added: “Higher education has really helped me as it stopped me becoming a full time athlete straight away. I have had the university degree to full back on and I have always known in the back of my mind that I have got something else to work on, not just triathlon. University has given me something else to focus on.”

You can watch the full video interview with the Brownlee brothers below, where they also encourage young people to take up volunteering opportunities and get involved at the London Games. They were talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

The Brownlee brothers are represented by Professional Sports Group and were speaking at the press launch of the Yorkshire 10K and 2K fun run in aid of Cystic Fibrosis. To find out more about the run and to sign up for the event in May go to

Five-time Olympic Games gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave

Great Britain’s greatest Olympian supports the role of education in sport

Having won an incredible five Gold medals in five successive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000, Sir Steve Redgrave is considered, by many, as Great Britain’s most successful Olympian of all time.

Since retiring from rowing after his victory at the Sydney 2000 Games, Redgrave has received many high-profile awards, established the Sir Steve Redgrave charity fund and played an active role in promoting the best of Great Britain to the world in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Although Redgrave progressed straight from secondary school education into sport, the 50-year-old underlined the important role further and higher education plays in an athletes development.

“Education is hugely important to an athletes progression. For most athletes from different sports it’s their college and university experiences which make a big difference as they develop. It’s great to be able to get an education, but also to concentrate on your sport as well,” said Redgrave, before the official opening of the Olympic Stadium during the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) championships.

With the London 2012 Games approaching, Podium have been following the progress of many of Great Britain’s brightest medal prospects, who are still immersed in their studies (on top of their training and competition schedules). Redgrave, who also won World and Commonwealth championship Gold medals during his career, admitted the equilibrium of education and sport are “ideal” for a modern-day athlete.

“I think the balance between the two is the ideal preparation in some ways and it’s in those early years when you know whether you’re really going to make it or not.

“Nowadays more athletes realise the importance of having something else to do alongside their training, and then eventually, have as a career after they finish sport. It’s really good to have an education behind you,” said the University of Durham Honorary Doctorate.

Triple jump gold medallist and world record holder Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards’ Higher Education experiences set him on his way to medal success

Jonathan Edwards CBE is one of Great Britain’s most decorated athletes of all time. The former triple jumper and current world record holder won Olympic, Commonwealth, European and World championship gold medals during a glittering 15-year career.

Edwards made the decision to pursue a career in triple jumping at the top level when he was a physics undergraduate at Durham University. The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games gold medallist revealed that his time at university influenced the direction in which he wanted his career to go in.

“When I started my university education I never thought that I was going to become a triple jumper at the highest level. I was doing well academically, working hard and thought I would pursue a decent career in physics by the end of it.

“I competed regularly at university and I eventually decided that if I did not make the most of my sporting talent now then I would never get another opportunity.”

The 45-year-old, who is now an accomplished broadcaster and motivational speaker, believed that the University’s sports facilities helped him enormously.

“Durham’s sports facilities at the time enabled me to train in the right environment as an athlete. I was also able to use the Gateshead International Stadium and that gave me a great opportunity to work at a world-class sporting facility.

“I met a coach when I first started training there and it was the start of a transition point between deciding that I wanted to pursue a career as a triple jumper, rather than do a normal job.”

After graduating from university in 1987, Edwards went from strength to strength as an athlete, winning medal after medal and breaking numerous records along the way.

Today, he is a member of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) and is heavily involved in the build up to this summer’s events. However, from his experience as an athlete, Edwards underlined how important it is that today’s athletes get the opportunity to both compete and study.

“The opportunities are out there for talented sportsmen and women to receive a good education at the same time and it is very beneficial as there is no guarantee that you will be successful as an athlete. Very few people can earn a living from sport and I feel if you have an education to fall back on then so much the better.”

The Windsor-born athlete’s achievements in sport were recognised by Durham University in 2009 as he received an Honorary Doctorate and he declared that university sport is a great way to nurture young talent, but it can be difficult to combine studying and competing.

“It is an immense privilege to be connected with the university and it is great to pass on some insight to aspiring athletes. It can be tough to do both and when I was an athlete my mind was taken up 24/7 trying to think about how good I could be as a sportsman. It is a big challenge, but equally it is a wise choice of action because the sporting world can be a very uncertain one.”

Edwards was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby (pictured) at the launch of a series of arts and cultural events taking place in the West Midlands as part of the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad. The Deputy Chairman of London 2012’s Nations and Regions Group met individuals from the region who have been inspired by the Games and they included: Team Staffordshire, Games Makers, Local Leaders and athletes.

Steve Backley supports athletes who combine their academic and sporting commitments

Steve Backley OBE is one of the finest athletes Great Britain has ever produced. Having collected seven major championship gold medals during a career which spanned three decades, he is also a former javelin world record holder and is still the only British track and field competitor to win medals at three Olympic Games: Barcelona 1992 (bronze), Atlanta 1996 (silver) and Sydney 2000 (silver).

He remained one of Team GB’s most consistent and established performers throughout his career in the sport, which began in the late 1980s.

At the same time he enrolled at Loughborough University and studied for a BSc Honours degree in physical education and sports science, while competing regularly for the institution and claiming many records along the way.

Although his international javelin commitments prevented him from completing his studies after his first year at the university, Loughborough later honoured him with the degree of Doctor of Technology honoris causa in 2002.

Backley admitted that combining top level sport and academic studying is difficult, but if it is possible to do then athletes should try their best to take up the opportunity.

“They are two full on things and that there is no doubt. It can be difficult if you have a profile as an athlete and a sport in which you have to train full time. If you then add your studies on top of that it makes three halves, but you can only really do two of them. It worked for a couple of years with me but I found it really tough. However, if you can do it, studying and sport is a wonderful blend.

“My university experience helped me massively. I moved away from home, spread my wings and I had to take responsibility for my own life, where I was meeting new people. It was a great way of growing up and being accountable for my sport as well. Loughborough’s training environment was great and I got to work with some top athletes.”

The former world number one javelin thrower also paid tribute to the Brownlee brothers, who are managing their academic and sporting challenges in pursuit of success at this summer’s London 2012 Games.

“There are a lot of other expectations that the Brownlee brothers will have this summer, should they chose to accept the other expectations (and they do not have to of course) because they are two down to earth guys. They have a lot of respect for other sports and the way they go about their business is pretty impressive.”

Since retiring from athletics after the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Backley now focuses his attention on new business ventures including Steve Backley Communications, corporate motivational speaking, sports commentary and a range of other media and television projects. He is also co-author of The Winning Mind.

Backley was talking to Podium at the launch of his new book: ‘The Champion in all of us – 12 rules for success’, which is a symbolic tale of four athletes and their desire to succeed at the Olympic Games.

You can watch the full video interview with Backley below, where he also discusses the importance of getting people involved at the London 2012 Games and his higher education experiences, as well as providing Podium with an insight as to what goes through the mind of a top performer. He was talking to Stuart Appleby (pictured).

Steve Backley’s book: ‘The Champion in all of us – 12 rules for success’ is available to purchase now and it is published by Mirage Publishing.

Geoff Holt

Internationally renowned yachtsman encourages involvement at the London 2012 Games

Geoff Holt MBE is an inspirational record-breaking yachtsman

Paralysed from the chest down after a swimming accident at the age of 18, Holt has faced adversity, achieved challenging goals and positively confronted whatever obstacles lie in front of him.

In 2007, he sailed 1,445 miles, solo, around Great Britain in a 15ft dinghy to become the first quadriplegic sailor to do so, and if that was not enough, another world record followed in 2010, when he completed his ‘Personal Atlantic’ challenge sailing 2,700 miles in the 60ft purpose-built catamaran Impossible Dream.

As well as being a multi-skilled yachtsman, Holt is also a Disability Sport Ambassador, where he helps to create opportunities for others. He also represents sailing on the British Paralympic Association: National Paralympic Committee and Holt encourages everyone to make the most of the opportunity and get involved at the London 2012 Games.

“The Games are not just about competing, but more about engaging in sport at some level. It is a good thing to get involved and the benefits you can get from sport are huge. Every sport needs volunteers and people to underpin the activities, otherwise events like the London Games could not happen.

“There are a lot of opportunities for young people at university to move into careers in sports psychology and physiology and they are very important to every athlete. If someone can do their bit to help an elite performer towards a gold medal then it should be encouraged,” said the 2010 YJA Yachtsman of the Year.

Holt, who is also a Podium Games Expert, was talking to Stuart Appleby (pictured) ahead of his University of Winchester Enterprise Lecture entitled ‘No Excuses – a voyage around Britain and through life’, in which Holt shares the story of his life with humour and thoughtful insight, accompanied by images and footage.

“To be engaged with the university and to see the creativity that is going on here is fantastic. I am absolutely thrilled I can be part of it.”

Tessa Jowell

Shadow Olympics Minister praises the role of Further and Higher Education in the lead up to London 2012

Tessa Jowell is a Member of Parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood and Shadow Minister for the Olympics and London.

Jowell has a long association with higher education, having studied at the University of Aberdeen, the University of Edinburgh and Goldsmiths College, University of London.

After completing her studies, she became a social worker and then administrator of the mental health charity Mind, before embarking on a career in politics. She stood unsuccessfully as a Labour Party candidate in 1978, but was later elected at the 1992 General Election.

Jowell played a key role in helping to bring the Games to London as Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, before assuming the role of Minister for the Olympics following Great Britain’s successful bid in Singapore in 2005. Today, with Labour in opposition, Jowell still holds her Olympics portfolio.

Jowell has and continues to support the work of Podium, and in 2008, she was amongst the speakers at Podium’s First Annual Conference. More recently, she praised the role of both further and higher education sectors in helping to create a legacy for the 2012 Games.

“I visit a lot of colleges and universities and see the great work they are doing. There is a huge enthusiasm amongst students and there are lots of opportunities for people to get involved. We are going to see Great Britain explode with excitement, anticipation and pride about what is about to happen. You do not want to be left out of that.

“There should not be a young person in the country who does not feel that this is a festival for them. I hope campuses across Great Britain will bring groups of students together and they just go for it and get involved with Games related activity,” she said.

The Shadow Olympics Minister also reminded students and young people that there is still plenty of time to apply and get involved at the Games, in whatever capacity that might be.

She added: “I hope that those young people who have not thought about it yet are going to get engaged. You do not want to get to June and realise it is too late to get involved, so you have got the time now. A lot of what is going to happen during the Games is going to come from the impulse and intiative of campuses, student organisations and communities right across Great Britain.”

Ken Livingstone

Labour’s London 2012 mayoral candidate supports the regeneration of the city through the Games

Ken Livingstone is Labour’s London 2012 mayoral candidate.

He was elected London’s first Mayor in 2000 and held this position until May 2008. Livingstone is now running to become Mayor of the capital for a second time.

Whilst out campaigning in Walthamstow, the London Borough of Waltham Forest, Livingstone spoke exclusively to Podium about young people getting involved in the 2012 Games, the opportunity to regenerate areas of the city of London through the Games and his advice for people in education who are looking to move into full-time work and pursue their career interests.

“London 2012 is a lifetime opportunity,” said Livingstone, who played a key role in helping to bring the Olympic and Paralympics Games to London in 2005.

Having visited Waltham Forest College earlier in the day to hold a question and answer session with students, he went onto add: “We have worked very closely with the five Olympic Boroughs and the London Development Agency (LDA) to make sure that local colleges were providing the building courses so local people could get the jobs.”

Brian Paddick

Liberal Democrat London 2012 mayoral candidate emphasizes the importance of Further and Higher Education sectors

Brian Paddick is the Liberal Democrat’s London 2012 mayoral candidate.

Paddick is running for the second time to become Mayor of London. He finished third in the 2008 mayoral election behind Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone.

Before moving into politics, Paddick was formerly Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the London Metropolitan Police Service, until his retirement in May 2007.

Having studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Queen’s College in Oxford, taken a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Warwick on police scholarships and also studied for a postgraduate Diploma in Policing and Applied Criminology at Fitzwilliam College, Paddick underlined the importance of further and higher education.

“I was lucky enough to be sponsored through university by the police and it was one of the most life changing experiences that I have ever had. I know people are very worried about how much it is going to cost now but, I would still encourage those people who have a real passion for doing something to go.”

He added: “University is not for everybody. Other people, like me, went straight from school into work. Fortunately, I was also given the opportunity to go to university at a later stage. It is not the only option but, it is absolutely essential that we have top quality universities.”

Paddick also praised the work of Podium and others for helping to give people in further and higher education the opportunity to work at the Games.

“There is no point in saying that we could have spent billions of pounds on better things, we are where we are. We have got to make the most of the opportunity that we have.

“There are a wealth of opportunities for people to volunteer at the Games, take part in the opening and closing ceremonies, welcome people to the Olympic Park and guide them across London. These are excellent opportunities, and although many are temporary and unpaid, it is useful job experience and something that you can put on your curriculum vitae.”

London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist Katherine Grainger

Team GB rower values higher education

I took up rowing when I began to study law at the University of Edinburgh in 1993 and it was difficult to some extent to balance work and sport but to be honest it was a very conscious choice to do both.

Although it did mean that my life was very busy and at certain times (around exams or trials) it could be stressful, I generally found that the two separate interests really helped each other.

When I was tired of studying in the library I loved going to the gym or out on the canal with the others in the rowing squad. And likewise when I was physically exhausted from pushing myself in training then I actually looked forward to the time when I could sit with my books and a hot mug of tea!

I absolutely loved my time at university. I met some wonderful people and I appreciated all the great opportunities that university can bring you. Loads of challenges from moving away from home, sharing flats and learning how to help run a ‘home’ along with housemates, to studying while competing and becoming independent and discovering that you have so many more abilities, skills, and talents than you ever knew.

It was great to meet such a varied group of people from all different places and backgrounds with varying opinions and viewpoints. It was such a brilliant place for learning on all levels. All of that has undoubtedly helped me to go on and achieve in life.

I personally think higher education is an important and valuable path in life. Not everyone might want to take that path but those who do should dive down that path with a huge smile on their face and embrace every opportunity that they find. It can be exciting, daunting, challenging, eye-opening and hilarious fun – but it will be memorable and hopefully rewarding for everyone.

After completing my studies in Edinburgh, I also gained a MSc of philosophy degree in medical law from the University of Glasgow and I am currently studying for a PhD in law at King’s College London.

I chose to do a MSc mainly because I loved the idea of the course and also because I wanted something alongside my sporting career to balance my life a little. That is also why I am doing my PhD – it is a huge challenge and my sport has to come first so there is often periods of time when my PhD is put to the side, but when I do find time to work on it then I find it stimulating in a very different, positive way.

Looking ahead and this will not come as a surprise, but the big aim for me is to win in London. I have secured silver medals in the last three Olympic Games so it would be unbelievable to win a gold medal on home turf.

 Katherine Grainger MBE is a three-time Olympic silver medallist and six-time World Champion. She is Team GB’s most successful Olympic female rower and was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

London 2012 long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford

Long jump gold medallist pays tribute to Games Makers and volunteers

London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist Greg Rutherford has singled out the work of Games Makers and volunteers, for playing a big role in making the world’s biggest sporting event run smoothly.

London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist Greg Rutherford has singled out the work of Games Makers and volunteers, for playing a big role in making the world’s biggest sporting event run smoothly.

The 25-year-old athlete, who triumphed in the long jump in front of a capacity crowd at the Olympic Stadium earlier this month, said he valued the contribution of the thousands of people who got involved, a large percentage of whom were students.

“Games Makers and volunteers played a huge, huge part in making the Olympic Games happen. I went out of my way quite often to say thank you to them and the guys have done an absolutely fantastic job in making it all run so smoothly,” said the joint British record holder for the long jump event, along with Chris Tomlinson.


Coming into the Games there were a lot of downers saying that it’s not going to work, it’s cost a lot of money and there’s no point in having it (the Games) in London, and all of a sudden the whole nation comes together and realises it’s a great event, it worked perfectly because of the people behind it.

“It’s a massive thank you from myself and the rest of the athletes, those guys really did make it a fantastic Games.”

Greg’s interview with Stuart took place at the launch of Walkers’ new Deep Ridged crisps at the Old Truman, Brick Lane in London.

David Moorcroft

Students can play an important role in creating a London 2012 Games legacy

I went to study at Loughborough University in 1972 with two aims – firstly to become a Physical Education teacher and then secondly to continue my athletics career. I made my senior debut for Great Britain when I was still at university and I was lucky to have the opportunity to do both.

The staff and other students at the university were great and I was surrounded by like-minded people. I went to university as a boy and I left as a man. I learnt a lot about myself, made some mistakes and I wanted to be the best I could possibly be as an athlete in those really important years.

In terms of balancing my academic and sporting commitments I found that the two complimented each other and it is great the athletes of today can do both. It is probably more difficult nowadays and it can be tricky depending on what subject you are studying.

However, I think universities are aware of these challenges and offer great support. It is possible to be both an outstanding student and athlete, as for example, Paula Radcliffe attained 1st Class honours from Loughborough and went onto great things.

It can be done and it is important to be organised and focused. It is a phrase that is often used but those people who want it most (both academically and in the sporting arena) can find the time to do both. I do not think that anybody who gives it their best shot in either ever regrets it for a moment.

As Chair of West Midlands for 2012 I am lucky that I get to engage with people in the region, particularly young people and see their enthusiasm for the Games. I meet a lot of Games Makers, Local Leaders and Torchbearers and it is fantastic that students from colleges and universities are getting involved in Games related activity.

I am an honorary doctorate of Staffordshire University and it is great to see students getting involved with the Games at an important stage in their respective careers.

Young people are part of the future and they will play a key role in creating a London 2012 Games legacy. Whether people are working or volunteering at the Games, they are helping to inspire many to get involved in sport, which has a big impact on people’s lives. It is a fantastic opportunity for students to engage in a once-in-a-lifetime event.

David Moorcroft OBE is a former 5000m world record holder, Commonwealth Games gold medallist and three-time Olympic Games competitor. His athletic career spanned from the early 1970s to the late 1980s and he broke many middle/long distance records along the way. 

Following his retirement from sport, Moorcroft moved into television broadcasting, before serving as the Chief Executive of UK Athletics from 1997 to 2007. He founded Sports consultancy pointfourone alongside Rob Borthwick in 2007 and is Chair of West Midlands for 2012. To find out more about Moorcroft’s career and activities, please visit:

He was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby at the launch of a series of arts and cultural events taking place in the West Midlands as part of the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad. To find out more about West Midlands for 2012 and the events and activities that are taking place, please visit the following website:

Four-time Olympic Games medallist Sophie Christiansen

The Royal Holloway University of London played a key role in my Paralympic Games success

I am a Paralympic British Equestrian athlete and Mathematics graduate from the Royal Holloway University of London. In 2008, I competed at the Beijing Paralympic Games, winning two golds and one silver medal. Four years earlier, I won bronze at the 2004 Athens Games, becoming in the process, Great Britain’s youngest competitor at the age of 16.

For me, playing sport and studying really helped. The structure at the Royal Holloway University of London was great and it allowed me to make the most of my time and have a good, organised schedule. The college was incredibly helpful and it is fantastic that Royal Holloway will be hosting athletes and officials taking part in Paralympic Rowing and Olympic Canoe Sprint events at Eton Dorney this summer.

Combining studying and sport was a productive use of my time as I knew I had to get both things done. It is important to manage your time strictly and you have to make some sacrifices so you are best prepared for competition.

The college was very supportive, everyone was friendly and they helped me onto the STARS (Student Talented Athlete Recognition Scheme). The scheme provided me with a grant to facilitate my training and I had a personal advisor at college who worked with me and understood my situation. For example, she organised for me to take an exam three or four hours earlier then it should have been taken, as I had to go off and shoot an advert for London 2012 with Sir Paul McCartney!

Having competed in and studied in the build up to the Paralympic Games in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), the London 2012 Games represent a very different challenge for me this summer. Since graduating last year, I am actually finding it quite difficult to adjust to a new schedule without study, as I was immersed in my second academic year in the run up to Beijing.

Before, I was able to go back to studying and forget about sport and refocus my mind on something else, but now I am training all year round. I am trying to keep busy with other things away from training and I recently received a part time job offer. However, I am very excited about London 2012 and it will be great to have all my friends and family there to support me. It is always tough to get selected but I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Image Caption: Sophie Christiansen (riding Lambrusco) receiving the gold medal in the individual freestyle event (Disability Grade 1a) at the 2008 Paralympic Games with her coach Clive Milkens.

London 2012’s Director of Sport Debbie Jevans

London 2012’s Director of Sport says pre-Games curtain raiser can inspire a new generation of student athletes

London 2012’s Director of Sport, Debbie Jevans, believes more students will be inspired to take up sport following the staging of the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) championships at the Olympic Stadium over the bank holiday weekend.

More than 1,000 students from universities and colleges descended on London 2012’s leading test event ahead of this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The successful testing of the venue’s event operations were held over a seven-day period, with the four-day BUCS championships spectacle, serving as the showpiece.

Debbie Jevans, who is a former Great Britain tennis player herself, praised the role education has in the development of young athletes.

“I think the championships demonstrate the fantastic sport which takes place in universities and colleges and for those students to have had the chance to compete in a world-class venue is amazing.

“I hope the BUCS event can inspire many, many more youth athletes to take up athletics and get involved wherever they can. If you work hard enough the rewards are there. The facilities educational institutions provide are great and we need those great facilities,” she added.

As Director of Sport at LOCOG, Jevans is responsible for delivering this summer’s sports events as well as the medical and anti-doping programmes.

Up to 70,000 volunteers, known as Games Makers, will also be working at the Games and many of those are expected to be students. Jevans believes it would be difficult to put an Olympic-sized event on without the input of volunteers.

“11,000 volunteers have worked throughout the park during the London Prepare Series and for all the sports specific volunteers – they’ve helped out, for example, by clearing hurdles from the track and carrying athletes’ clothing and equipment.

“People have given their time to take part in hours and hours of training and without them we wouldn’t have any sporting events.”

Four-time Paralympic gold medallist Marc Woods

Paralympic gold medallist urges involvement in the 2012 Games

Marc Woods is a four-time Paralympic gold medallist, former international swimmer and the winner of a staggering 12 Paralympic medals from the five Games he has competed in.

At the age of just 17 and having been a swimmer at county level, Marc was diagnosed with cancer and eventually had to have his left leg amputated below the knee. Only days after having his stitches removed, Marc began swimming again and within a year he was swimming quicker with one leg then he had been with two.

Indeed, 18 months after completing his chemotherapy, Marc was selected to represent Great Britain and went on to do so in competition for the next 17 years, winning a further 21 medals from European and World Championships.

Since retiring from competing, Marc is now a motivational speaker, BBC TV commentator and has also received a number of prestigious awards and titles, including an honorary doctorate from Middlesex University, being made a Freeman of the City of London and a Trustee of the Teenage Cancer Trust among other notable causes.

Marc was a recent keynote speaker at the Association of Colleges (AoC) Conference in Birmingham, and is an ambassador for London 2012. He is also a member of the British Paralympic Advisory Panel for the Games and is excited about next year’s event, even though, this time, he will not be competing on the biggest stage.

“I think it is great to get people excited about the Games coming to London as we are less than a year away now,” says Marc. “I also think it is important to balance out the Olympic and Paralympic content at an event like this. Olympic is the word that comes to mind when you think about London 2012 but obviously it is about the Paralympics too. Hopefully I am able to communicate the power of the Paralympic Games, why it is important and enthuse some people to get involved.”

Young people in the UK should make the most of the having the Olympic and Paralympic Games in their country and the opportunities it affords according to Marc: “Young people should get involved in London 2012 in whatever way they can. If you can get a ticket then fantastic, if you can volunteer even better, if you cannot do either of those two things at least watch it on television. Try and get to the Olympic and Paralympic park, walk through there, get to London and get a sense of the atmosphere. It is going to happen once in your lifetime in the UK, just enjoy it. It will be an incredible experience for everybody.”

Marc paid tribute to the support he received whilst in Further Education, which helped to motivate him to get back into swimming after his operation.

“The support I received from teachers and the educational system was very important to me. After I lost my leg and it was amputated, there was one particular teacher who was amazing and supported me to get back into swimming.

“He supported me to raise money to go to my first Games in Seoul (1988) because in those days there was no funding at all in Paralympic sport. He swam across the River Humber, he ran the London Marathon and he was a regular teacher at my school. That passion really helped me a lot because I was recovering from cancer, my chemotherapy and I was transitioning into a sporting life. He was fantastic.”

Reflecting on his distinguished Paralympic career, Marc, who has held world records for 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle, pointed to the gold medal he won in the 4×100 freestyle relay during the Sydney 2000 Games as being the most special to him.

“I was lucky enough to win 12 Paralympic medals but I think my Sydney medal means the most to me. A few days before I was due to fly out with the team my father died, and the medal really embodies the best and worst of times together in one. Everytime I look at that medal it makes me think of my father and how he supported me throughout my life, and particularly how difficult it was for me around that time.”

This December, Marc will be heading to Antarctica to participate in the ‘Centenary Race to the South Pole’. Joined by his team-mate, James Mark, the pair will compete as ‘Team SladenWoods’ in a race regarded by many as the toughest on earth.

Marc explained a bit more: “We will be taking part to raise money for learning disability charity MENCAP. It is a unique opportunity for me to raise awareness of MENCAP and the fantastic work it does. Obviously, we will be competing against the other teams but I am under no illusion that our greatest battle will be against the environment. There is a reason why Antarctica has been called the cruellest place on earth.

“Unassisted we have the daunting challenge of pulling our 70kg pulks a total of 750km, negotiating multiple crevasses, crossing snow bridges and facing winds of up to 80mph whilst withstanding temperatures as low as -50C. Combined with the challenges of being an amputee, it is going to be a testing couple of months. We will be away over the entire Christmas period as we return on 4th February.”

To donate to ‘Team SladenWoods’ please visit: If you wish to follow the progress of the team visit: or follow Marc on twitter: Marc will be posting details on how the preparations are going before the trip, and it will also be possible to follow the positions of each team via an online GPS tracking system on the ‘SladenWoods’ website.

Marc Woods was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby at the AoC Conference in Birmingham.

London 2012 Chief Executive Paul Deighton

London 2012 Chief Executive highlights the ‘integral’ involvement of FE and HE in Olympic and Paralympic Games

London 2012 Chief Executive Paul Deighton has praised the ‘integral role’ played by the UK’s education sectors and students in delivering a hugely successful London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

With many of the volunteers, Games Makers and contracted staff who have worked throughout London’s showpiece sporting events being students or recent graduates, Deighton singled out the contribution of those people involved in the Further and Higher Education sector.

Talking exclusively to Podium at The Paralympic Ball, which celebrated the contribution of Paralympians to the Games, he said:

“Students have been an integral part in our Games Makers teams, both volunteers and in our paid staff who’ve been working for our contractors in lots of jobs.”

Deighton, who is taking up the ministerial post of Commercial Secretary to the Treasury after the Games, added: “Of course we’ve used the education system to provide a lot of our facilities as well, for example, pre Games training camps.

“Everywhere you look the education system has played a part at the Games.”

Paul Deighton was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby at the Paralympic Ball fundraising event for the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Agitos Foundation.

Sir Craig Reedie

International Olympic Committee Member supports the role Higher Education will play ahead of the 2012 Games

I am a Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its Executive Board, serving on several different IOC Commissions. I am also a director of the British Olympic Association and a Member of the Executive Committee and Foundation Board of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Higher Education has always been very important to me as my happiest sporting days were playing badminton at the University of Glasgow in the early 1960’s. As far as I am concerned, my time there helped to get me into sport, as it gave me the enthusiasm. I then went onto play badminton at national and international level from 1962 to 1970.

With the growth in academic courses and qualifications, I am not sure how high sport is now ranked on a university’s priority list but the role it plays is still crucial. When I competed we had Scottish University Championships, which are still going now, and it was something we all thrived on.

Looking ahead to the 2012 London Games, it is going to be an incredible time for sport in Britain. Having previously been Chairman of the British Olympic Association, along with many others, I helped to bring the Games to London. We decided after failed bids, once in Birmingham, and twice in Manchester, that we would come back into the race with London.

We received the backing from the government and the whole process was a wonderful, unifying exercise for British sport. It was a national campaign as practically everybody in the country was on our side. The technical preparations to support the bid were outstanding and we emphasized the rich traditions and history Britain can bring to an event. It was hugely time consuming and it was quite hard work to pull it off.

It is important to encourage involvement ahead of the Games, and having launched various volunteer programmes in Scotland, most of the volunteers were young people. This is very encouraging and I have high hopes that by July next year, news surrounding high youth unemployment and economical downturn, will not be as prominent and that London 2012 will make the whole country proud. It will be a fantastic event and hopefully it will start the whole process of things getting better in this country.

Sir Craig Reedie CBE, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its Executive Board was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

Beijing 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist Emma Pooley

Higher Education helped me to Olympic success

I am a Team GB cyclist and Olympic silver medallist. I am hoping to compete at the London 2012 Games.

Before I went to Trinity Hall Cambridge, it never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that I would compete at an Olympic Games (2008) one day. I started off studying a mathematics course as I had applied for the subject, but I ended up changing and doing an engineering degree at the end of my first year.

Although, I was always really keen on sport, running in particular, I did not actually participate in a cycling race until my final year at the college. The move into cycling happened for me when I picked up a cross-country running injury (stress fracture) and I was desperate to cross train when I was injured.

I then became interested in cycling and my first cycling race was one that my friend persuaded me to go to. At that point, I did not think I was going to be a cyclist, it was entirely accidental that my friend persuaded me to go along, race and give it a try.

I spent all my time playing sport at college when I was not studying, but combining the two was OK for me. I was happy that I was playing regular sport each day and it was a case of trying to fit everything in. I do not think that I would have finished my degree if I had not had played sport, it was a really positive thing for me. If anything, I had to make more sacrifices in my social life and I could not lead a stereotypical student life.

There is more than one route to go down (especially with many Centres of Excellence for elite performers now), but for me, Trinity Hall was the right step. A sporting career does not last forever and I feel privileged to have received a degree.

Even if I had started to compete in cycling earlier, I would have still have attended Trinity Hall. It was important to me to move into higher education and hopefully it will lead me into other areas in the future.

In terms of qualifying for the London 2012 Games, I am on track as far as I am concerned. I have been training in Australia recently, and although I miss my friends and family, it was great to have fewer distractions.

Image courtesy of Cheryl King.

Emma Pooley is a Team GB cyclist and Olympic silver medallist in the time trial in Beijing. She is based in Zurich and is currently studying for a PhD in geotechnical engineering at ETH Zurich. She was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

Stuart Storey

Sports commentator looks forward to London 2012

I was educated at Spalding Grammar School and my first attempt at the All England Schools Championships was in 1958. I ran in what was then called the 110 yard hurdles (today’s 110 metre hurdles) and I was the slowest in my heat, coming in with one of the slowest times overall.

However, the following year I won a gold medal, so I went from bottom to top very quickly. In 1960 I then went onto win a silver medal in my new age group, and then a year later, I won the gold medal and broke the British record on grass (securing a time of around 14.4 seconds).

From there I moved to Loughborough Training College and joined a very strong athletics contingent. It was a breeding ground for internationals at the time, as it was before the professional era. My first international for England came against East Germany in 1965 but I did not compete much at all in 1966 as I had chickenpox.

After teaching at a Grammar School for a year or two, I completed a master’s degree in America before training and qualifying for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games. I competed in Mexico City and both Alan Pascoe and Mike Parker were two of my colleagues in the high hurdles at that time. Before that Olympics and in 1967, I was probably one of the first people to see the legendary Dick Fosbury. He ended up winning the gold medal in the 1968 high jump event and became known for the ‘Fosbury Flop’ which made him one of the most influential athletes in track and field.

Following the Games I returned to the UK and became Head of Physical Education at Loughton College, and from there I moved to the Thames Polytechnic (now the University of Greenwich). My move into broadcasting came in unique circumstances. My wife, who was an international basketball player, asked if there could be some courtside commentary for the first time a British team had competed in the European Club Championships.

I gave the commentary a go, someone from the BBC heard me do it and I got an invite from the broadcaster to go and have a trial run for them. I did an audition and to this very day I have not heard whether I got the job! I never actually had a letter stating that I was employed but I kept receiving invitations to come back and do more commentary, before I was then offered a contract. I covered my first Olympic Games in 1976 and went onto cover every Games thereafter up until Beijing in 2008 for BBC television.

I left the Thames Polytechnic in the middle of the 1980’s to focus on my television work and I left the BBC in 2008 after the Olympic Games. I am now working for IMG Media. For the last few years I have been commentating on Athletics Golden League events, and more recently the Diamond League. Next year, I will also be working for the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) commentating on London 2012. It is a world feed for those that are not coming to London but are English speaking and it will be formatted as a proper programme. I am very busy doing other things as well and I have been lucky to lead a privileged life so far.

It is great that the Games are coming to London and the 2012 Games really will challenge those competing. I remember interviewing Greg Foster, who won three World Championship gold medals and one World Indoor Championship gold medal, and I asked him whether he would swap all four of those medals for one gold medal at the Olympics? He said yes. I think that shows how much the event means, it is history as the Games have been going on forever. Of course there have been problems down the years, withdrawals and political interference but I think the sport should be allowed to prevail at all costs.

I have been lucky enough to have many commentating highlights but to be quite honest, the biggest privilege for me was to be mentored by David Coleman. He was awarded the Olympic Order, the highest honour of the Olympic movement for his service to broadcasting and I worked with David for 25 years across seven Olympic Games. To be mentored by the greatest commentator for me was terrific. I remember the first time he walked into the commentary box and he said to me this is television, the commentator says what the picture does not say. I wish most commentators today would listen to that piece of advice because there is far too much talk. We are all guilty of it, of course, me included.

From the commentary box I enjoyed immensely watching Michael Johnson in Atlanta in 1996. He held the 200m world record then and I thought that would stand for a long, long time. However, of course, Usain Bolt came along and to commentate on his achievements in 2008 alongside Steve Cram was incredible. It is a great moment to commentate on the sprinters and it is just like being in a pair of starting blocks preparing to do the race yourself. Everything then goes silent for a moment, you let the pictures do the talking and then there is a massive explosion when the gun goes off and the crowd goes berserk. It is a wonderful experience.

Stuart Storey is currently working with IMG Media on Athletics Golden League events and he is represented by Jane Cowmeadow Communications and Management (JCCM). He was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Team GB pole vaulter Kate Dennison

Higher Education has been hugely influential on my career

I am a psychology graduate from Staffordshire University and British pole vault athlete.

I was born in Durban, South Africa and my family moved to Alsager in Cheshire when I was four-years-old.

Having always been a keen athlete, I took up pole vaulting at the age of 16 and then went onto study psychology at Staffordshire University.

Studying at university was a great experience and the time I spent there helped me to decide what path to take. I realised I wanted to pursue a career in pole vaulting and the staff were really supportive.

I was fortunate to receive a sports scholarship fund and this helped me to get through everything. It was also important for me to study because it gave me the chance to think about something else other than sport. It can be quite unhealthy to think about sport 24/7.

My parents, close friends and the university were really supportive throughout my student years and I am really grateful to them all.

I am now training professionally at Loughborough and it is a great environment. I am on track with everything and hopefully I will be able to compete in my second Olympic Games in London, having competed in Beijing. The competition is fierce but that is what makes it so tough at the highest level.

ParalympicsGB ready and raring to go for the London 2012 Games

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) is the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) for the UK and we are the designated representative body for the Paralympic Movement. The principal responsibility and mandate that we have as an organisation is to select, enter and manage the team – ParalympicsGB.

This is the brand that we have for the team at the summer and winter Games. The role and function of the organisation is to also represent both British athletes and Paralympic sport.

As Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association, I run the team we have here in terms of all the different programmes we operate. We have 25 people at the association and my responsibility is to lead that team, making sure that the structure is right, the resources are there and the strategic vision is in place to move forward. Of course, at this moment in time, we want to make sure we are best prepared to support our athletes going into the London 2012 Games.

The opportunity that we have in London is a unique one and it is potentially transformational for Paralympic sport. The Paralympic Games itself started in 1960 but, the whole concept of the Paralympic Movement really began in 1948 at Stoke Mandeville. The event, which was staged there, corresponded with the London Olympic Games of that same year.

The Paralympic Games has a 60-year-old history for an event, which is now the second largest in the world. Its growth has been phenomenal and I believe the opportunity we have this year in London is not only to celebrate that but, to really use it as a catalyst to increase understanding, as well as showcase the accessibility and inclusiveness of Paralympic sport.

Ahead of the Games, as a nation we are looking good and we have a very proud history. In the past three Paralympic Games, we have finished in second position in the medals table and our ambition is to match that in 2012. Obviously, the competition is very, very intense but, we have some great athletes who are world class performers in the British team. We hope to make the nation very proud.

In terms of my own role, it is important to note that on a day to day basis over the four years leading into the Games, every athlete is supported by their governing body. For example, a swimmer, will spend most of their time with a support coach in British swimming. However, when they come back into our team, we all have a great working relationship. We work very hard for the team leaders, performance directors and the coaches to ensure we understand the needs of athletes.

No stone will be left unturned in terms of what we can do to help them to be ready for the Games. From a personal perspective, getting involved with the sports and helping the athletes is one of the most enjoyable parts of the job.

There is an undoubted wave of excitement for the Paralympic Games this year and it is different from anything previously experienced. The British public gets sport, they understand it and the response to ticket sales has been phenomenal. People recognise that we have some truly world class performers within ParalympicsGB and household names are starting to emerge.

Obviously, there is still a long way to go and that is not just for Paralympic sport, every sport has to try and battle past the likes of football and those big ticket sports. One of the great things about the London Games is that there will be a spotlight like never before. As an organisation we are looking to ensure that people become more aware of and understand the issues surrounding disability sport, and hopefully we can play our part in driving the profile of Paralympic sport forward.

Tim Hollingsworth is Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association and he was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

Team GB sprinter Anyika Onuora

Higher Education helped me along the way to London 2012 dream

I am a Team GB sprint athlete. I previously completed an elite athlete Sports Scholarship at Liverpool John Moores University.

I first became involved in athletics after being spotted by one of my local colleges. They told me I had the potential to run quickly and suggested I should start to run regularly at my local club. I decided to follow their advice, but at the time, I did not really see it as a career for me. Within a year, I was competing for Great Britain!

I began competing at major events around the world and I also attended Liverpool John Moores University on an elite athlete Sports Scholarship programme. This helped me to study and compete for Team GB at the same time. Myself, Beth Tweddle and Martyn Bernard all went through the scholarship together and we gave each other a lot of support.

The university helped me every step of the way and the support was fantastic. For example, I was able to hand in coursework or take exams at a later date if I had to go away on intensive training or compete abroad. My tutors and lecturers allowed me the time to combine my sporting and university commitments. Without the support I received from the university and my family, I do not think I would have got through it.

It was quite tough, but fun and enjoyable. I studied Economics and it is great to have a degree in a subject I am passionate about and can use after my sporting career. I come from a very cultural and traditional family and my parents instilled in me the values of education. I have always had a business mind and this influenced my decision to study Economics.

Moving things onto sport and after coming back from injury in 2010, and then enjoying a great 2011 season, it has given me a huge confidence boost. I am in a good position and hopefully 2012 will be a great year for me as well. Every day I sit on the track and scream about the prospect of London 2012! That feeling of waiting on the start line and knowing that everything you do comes down to that one moment is unbelievable. Everything else is forgotten about and you begin to understand it once you have been in that position.

I did not think that I would ever come back from the injury that I had, but because I was surrounded by a great support team, it filled me with positivity. Some athletes over emphasize the hype surrounding London 2012, but you do not know when you are going to get an opportunity like this again. You have to enjoy it for everything that it is worth.

Anyika Onuora was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby. Onuora is a former Commonwealth Games (2006) and European Athletics Championships (2006) silver medallist. To read Onuora’s biography and detailed career statistics, please click here. She is represented by Definitive Sports Management.

ParalympicsGB wheelchair tennis player Liam O’Reilly

My Higher Education experiences have helped me to success on the Tennis court

I am a third year sport psychology student at Roehampton University and wheelchair tennis player.

My experience at university has been absolutely brilliant so far and I have loved every minute of it. I am living on campus again this year and it is great to be close to where everything is happening. I train at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, which is close to where I live, so everything is ideal.

Before I decided to take up wheelchair tennis at the age of 15 or 16, I used to play wheelchair basketball and I trained a couple of times per week. I ended up meeting someone at a training session and he suggested I get involved with tennis and give it a try. It was from there really where it all began and I now train up to five times per week.

I train alongside the likes of Andy Murray at Roehampton and it is great to be in that environment. It is inspiring watching players like him and it makes you want to work even harder and get to the highest level. The facility is amazing and everyone works together. The goal is to become the best player you possibly can.

The Tennis Foundation organise world class tennis events around Great Britain and my tournament season started at the end of February and runs until November, so it is a long and tough season. This year is incredibly intense and tennis can be a very unforgiving sport. It is an all round sport and trying to compete each week can be quite difficult, especially with my academic commitments.

As I am in my final year, things have got a lot more intense, as I have been doing my dissertation and working on coursework. It is a case of putting the work in and the university have been really supportive. I am on a sports scholarship at the university and it is a big help. Before I came to Roehampton I was working full time and completing my training around my job, but it was becoming very difficult.

I looked into a scholarship and after talking to the university, they were interested in taking me on. I ended up securing a place through the Clearing system and it has really helped. I worked with a strength and conditioning coach for the first two years of my degree and that was amazing. The scheme also provides athletes with some extra finance to help cover both academic and sporting costs, which is very important.

This year has been tough so far and the level of competition is high as people are trying to qualify for a place at this summer’s Paralympic Games. Anybody who’s anybody is at every tournament, and for me, it is a taster to see how far I can go. It is unlikely that I will qualify for London 2012 but I want to take in each and every experience from a Paralympic year and use it to help me in the future.

I am already looking forward to the Rio 2016 Games and I hope that all the experiences I take in now can stand me in good stead for when I am competing at that level in a few years time. It will be beneficial to see how far I have come and find out what I need to work on. Hopefully I will then have the opportunity to test myself against the world’s best in the coming years.

Liam O’Reilly is a Wheelchair Tennis player and a BT Storyteller for the London 2012 Games. You can keep up to date with Liam’s fledgling tennis career by following him on Twitter. He was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Tony Larkin

Royal National College for the Blind helps to prepare 2012 Paralympic Games hopefuls

I am the current manager and coach of the England blind football team, which is based at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) in Hereford. The college’s academy for visually impaired players became the first of its kind in the UK when it was opened in 2008.

Having volunteered at the Royal National College throughout my 15 years as a professional footballer with Wrexham, Shrewsbury Town, Carlisle United and Hereford United, I returned to the college to coach sport after retiring as a player. I am now Head of Sport and Recreation at the college.

Before the academy opened, we looked at other academies and studied the work they were doing, which particularly enhanced and improved people’s pathways in sport. We wanted to offer something for blind and partially sighted people, so we set up the RNC Blind Football Academy for talented athletes to come here and train, whilst giving them the opportunity to obtain vocational and academic qualifications simultaneously. We are using the academy to feed into the England blind football team.

I always say to the players that I am jealous of them in the sense that I played football for a long time but never got to the standard of international level. They have achieved that and it is a great honour to be able to lead the team out. I have been head coach since 1995 and I used to coach the partially sighted. Now, though, I concentrate solely on blind football. I get a great deal of satisfaction from coaching and it is great to be apart of it.

The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games was a fantastic experience as the England squad qualified as Great Britain’s entry. It was a massive learning curve and I can always remember stating that our goal was to be on the podium but I do not think we were ready for that then. Two years earlier, we finished as runners-up to Spain in the European Championships and ahead of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, we have got the squad capable of winning a medal.

We are building and planning for the future, so besides the experience of the likes of England blind football captain Dave Clarke, the majority of our players are new, so it is looking good for London 2012. Clarke, who is a senior bank manager, has got a young family and is training very hard on top of that. This showcases the level of hard work and dedication from the players.

We are all geared up for the Games, everyone is looking forward to the challenge and I have potentially got 14 outfield blind players who could play. I will soon have to whittle that number down to eight so the competition in the squad is very healthy and everyone is kept on their toes. All our players have to deal with a fitness programme, and they have to send a fitness diary back to us on a weekly basis.

The Paralympic Games are fast approaching and we have been saying to the players that every training weekend is basically a selection weekend. We have got a training session in a couple of weeks time ahead of a weeks camp in January, we then play a friendly competition against France before facing Spain, China and Brazil in April as part of the build up to the Paralympics. We do not want an easy competition.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games will help to raise the profile of blind football, and build upon the success of the 2010 IBSA World Blind Football Championship in England. Recently, former England captain David Beckham spent a days training session with the squad and initiatives like this really help to promote the sport.

Besides the medal opportunities on offer at the Games, we want people to sit up and take notice of the guys that participate in blind football, as well as every single Paralympic sport. I have had the opportunity to watch other paralympic sports and I think people are going to be really taken back by the ability on show. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and something that will never happen again so we have got to make the most it, both playing wise and raising the profile of the sport.

Tony Larkin is Head of Sport and Recreation at the Royal National College for the Blind and the current manager of the England blind football team. He was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

To find out more about the Royal National College Blind Football Academy, the rules of competition and how to get involved, then please visit the following address:

British canoeist Jonny Tye

The University of Surrey have played a key role in my academic and sporting success

I am a mechanical engineering undergraduate at the University of Surrey and British canoeist.

I am currently in my second term at university and on average I receive 28 hours of taught lecture time each week, before completing my personal studies on top of that.

Alongside my academic commitments, I train almost full time as an athlete and anywhere up to 30 hours a week, which is broken down into numerous sessions. It is quite hectic but I believe there are a few key elements that make sure the two go together smoothly.

Firstly, it is important to be organised, self disciplined and plan ahead so you know your schedule. And secondly you need a great support team around you. Fortunately for me the university have been absolutely fantastic and I work with a brilliant team, so I cannot sing their praises enough.

They are very understanding and last year when I went to the World Championships in Singapore the university were very flexible with my deadlines and allowed me extra time in which to complete my work.

The academic staff have been great and to have the opportunity to train at the Surrey Sports Park is brilliant as it is such a good facility to use. I am able to work with a coach and physiotherapist there, as well as a performance manager. They are really helpful and they are there for me if I need to discuss anything or sort out any issues.

I am very lucky that I have got a good support network around me and it allows me to focus on my sport and studies. My timetable is packed each and every day and it is important to have a good structure in place. I am hoping to achieve a 1st Class degree from university and move into a graduate position after my athletics career.

Higher Education has proved very beneficial for me and I am delighted I followed this route. I have watched some of my peers who are a couple of years above me drop out of education and go full time in their respective sports, and as a result, they have struggled a bit.

It can be difficult for young athletes to train full time as all you can ever think about is training and competing, so it is good to have something else to focus on. I enjoy having the opportunity to use a training session to get a bad day at university out of my head or vice-versa.

A sporting career is relatively short and it is difficult to earn a living from for the rest of your life so it is important to have an education and a career to fall back on. In addition, the risk of injury to athletes can prevent you from performing at the highest level and result in a loss of funding. If that happens then you really are on the back foot.

Having only made the step up from junior to senior level last year, it is very difficult for me to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games as a TeamGB canoeist as they have an established and senior team in place at the moment.

I was very successful in my last year as a junior and I am looking forward to progressing as much as I can while learning lots along the way. I compete in both the sprint and marathon canoe disciplines and my next goal is to race for the under-23s in the European Championships in July.

I just need to keep working hard and moving forward. I am in the mix with those athletes, so it is a possibility. I would also love to get selected for the senior team to race in the World Championships in September after the Olympic Games and that is a big target for me.

Jonny Tye is a mechanical engineering undergraduate at the University of Surrey and British canoeist. You can keep up to date with Jonny’s fledgling athletics career by following him on Twitter. He was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

High jumper Isobel Pooley

University of Nottingham student is aiming high for BUCS Champs and London 2012

Isobel Pooley can barely contain herself about the prospect of competing in the British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) Championships at the Olympic Stadium.

The 19-year-old high jumper is one of hundreds of students who will perform in front of a capacity 46,000 crowd at the tournament, which runs from Friday 4th to Monday 7th May and forms part of Universities Week 2012.

“I’ve done some training inside the Olympic Stadium recently and it’s been an amazing opportunity to test out the facilities. Even when the stadium is empty the atmosphere is incredible,” the Fleet-born high jumper smiles.

“It’s just unimaginable to think about taking part in the BUCS Championships at the heart of the London 2012 Games and it’s going to be incredible. It’s such a great opportunity to feel that Olympic vibe already and I hope that the environment can inspire each and every competitor to perform to their very best level.”

Pooley is currently in her first year at the University of Nottingham and studies Animal Science. She divides her training time between Nottingham and Loughborough University, enabling her to also frequently meet with her coach who’s based in Birmingham.

“I’m lucky to train at some amazing sporting facilities and both universities have been great and helped me a lot. Having indoor training facilities meant I’ve been able to train right the way through the winter and work on some of the technical aspects of my performance.”

Pooley’s current personal best performance is 1.88m and that feat falls just 4cm below the Olympic B standard for this summer’s Games. Although time is very much on her side, Pooley says competing in London is her number one target.

“To compete in my home country and in a city I grew up just an hour away from is not an opportunity I want to pass by. I will be trying my utmost to ensure selection to take part in the Games.”

Pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale

London 2012-bound pole vaulter grateful for university support

Manchester Metropolitan University student Holly Bleasdale has paid tribute to the support she has received from her University, as she prepares to pursue her Olympic dream in London this summer.

The 20-year-old pole vaulter, who broke the British record in July last year and stands second on the all-time list with a clearance of 4.87m, combines her elite level sporting duties with a degree in sports science.

“I’m a distance learning student at university because I can’t go in all the time but they’ve been so supportive. If I need any help they’re here for me as it’s important I get the balance right between student life and training. It can be hard sometimes but the university have been really supportive with everything,” said the World Indoor championships bronze medalist.

Ahead of this summer’s London 2012 Games Bleasdale has already had a taste of what it will be like to perform in the Olympic Stadium – as she competed in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) championships – the first ever competitive event to be staged at the new arena.

“It was amazing to compete in the Olympic Stadium and there was a big crowd in which was really uplifting. The championships have got me excited about the Games and I just want to continue to train hard.”

800m runner Guy Learmonth

800m runner’s development supported by Loughborough University

Loughborough College student and London 2012 Olympic Games hopeful Guy Learmonth has paid tribute to Loughborough University for supporting his development as an up-and-coming athlete.

The 19-year-old claimed his second British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) title of 2012 at London’s Olympic Stadium over the Bank Holiday weekend with an impressive time of 1:50.36 – adding to the indoor success he enjoyed a couple of months ago.

Learmonth, who is also a Lasswade Athletics Club runner, has been heavily involved as an ambassador for Loughborough’s ‘Flames: Lighting the Way’ project – which won the prestigious Coubertin’s Olympic Vision honour at Podium’s Awards Ceremony last week.

“The University have helped me to develop an awful lot as an athlete and it’s a great place to be. I’m lucky to have great partnerships with my coach back in Scotland and at the University – it all comes together well and is a great combination,” the Scottish middle-distance runner said.

“The facilities I have the opportunity to use are second to none and I train alongside some great athletes at Loughborough too – which can really help your own performance. I’ve developed a lot at Loughborough and at the moment I’m feeling good and feel as though I’m improving session by session.”

Learmonth could well be representing Great Britain at this summer’s Olympics, and to have experienced the facilities on offer already, it should only serve to increase his chances if he finds himself in similar surroundings in a couple of months time.

“It’s been absolutely brilliant to compete in the Olympic Stadium and I couldn’t wait to get out there and start running. I’m feeling good and it was a lovely track to run on. I’ve been here when it’s empty and there’s still a buzz to it, so when the crowd started to fill it up, it was even better.”

400m runner Eilidh Child

Eilidh Child: My university experience prepared me for competing on the biggest stages

400m hurdler Eilidh Child has revealed her university experience equipped her with the skills and confidence to compete at the elite level.

The 23-year-old, who captured a silver medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, won the guest 400m hurdles (57.31) at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) championships over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Away from the track Child is a part-time physical education teacher and divides her time between training in Bath and living in Scotland. The hurdler also holds a degree in the subject she now teaches from the University of Edinburgh.

“My university experience helped me a lot as a young athlete coming through the ranks and it gave me that platform to work from and then compete at bigger events. It helped me to make that step up to bigger championships,” said the European championships semi-finalist (Barcelona, 2011).

There’s no doubt that this summer’s Games in London are what Child’s has been working towards, but she admits there is still work to do over the next couple of months.

“This summer isn’t too far away now and I’m really looking forward to it, but I have to qualify first and make sure I hit some really good form at the right time.”

Child’s comes from a sporting family who are no strangers to the elite stages, as her sister competed at triple jump and brother is a professional footballer. Having ran inside the Olympic Stadium during the BUCS competition – Child’s says she relished the chance to perform in front of a large crowd.

“It’s a nice feeling to be a winner in this stadium and I’m happy about it. It’s a really good atmosphere and having the crowd the whole way round with you does make you run.”

James Ellington

College kept London 2012 sprint hopeful on the right track

London 2012 Olympic Games sprint hopeful James Ellington says his time at college helped to keep him on the right track as an emerging athlete coming through the ranks.

The speed merchant, who cruised to a swift 10.30 seconds victory in the guest 100m during the British Universities and Colleges Sport championships (BUCS) at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday night, balanced his sporting and educational commitments from an early age.

“Education was massive in my development as an athlete as I was involved in sports throughout my time at school and then in college. College kept me on the straight and narrow and pushed me into sport further on down the line,” said the south London athlete, who began running aged just 13 at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

Ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games Ellington is billed as one of Great Britain’s greatest hopes. Ellington has supported himself as an athlete without sponsorship or lottery support, and having had the opportunity to compete on the Olympic track during the London Prepare series has elevated his desire to compete in front of a home crowd again in a few months time.

“It was amazing to compete in the Olympic Stadium and it felt like an Olympic final out there. The crowd helped my performance and I just pictured myself in an Olympic final. I’ve got to focus like that for every race this season.”

Ellington’s achievements on the track to date are impressive. He struck gold as the anchor man in the British under-23 4x100m relay team in the European Championships in 2007 and has become a permanent member in the British senior sprints squad since.

Only last year Ellington again won gold in the European Team Championships and he can now boast personal bests over 200 metres of 20.52 seconds, and 100 metres of 10.23 seconds (10.12 seconds wind assisted).

Badminton Olympian Hadia Hosny El Said

University of Bath student qualifies for London 2012 Olympic Games

University of Bath and badminton player Hadia Hosny El Said has taken a big step towards competing at her second Olympic Games after achieving the London 2012 qualifying standard.

The Egyptian player, who has been combining training at the University with studying for a MSc in medical biosciences, qualified for a spot at the Games by finishing as the highest African women’s singles player in the world rankings during the Olympic qualifying period.

She is now awaiting selection by the Egyptian National Olympic Committee as a member of Egypt’s team for the Games.

“I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to the Olympic Games. They’re so close now so I want to train as hard as I can to do my best and represent both Egypt and Africa, as well as the University,” said Hadia, who became the first Egyptian badminton player to play at an Olympic Games in Beijing four years ago, when she was called up from a waiting list just 13 days before the competition.

Hadia chose to train with Coach Pete Bush at the University because of its strong combination of academic and sporting excellence.

“The University combines both academic work and sport and it was named the (The Sunday Times) University of the Year in 2011/12, as well as being rated highly for badminton. My studies are going really, really well and the facilities here are great too. I’ve definitely improved as a badminton player since I’ve been training here and it’s great I’ve had the opportunity to represent the University in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) competitions too.

“Ahead of this summer’s Games my training has been going well and my coach is planning to increase the amount of training I will be doing. I’ll be training at least one court session per day and increasing my physical training as well. It’s going to be difficult (more than before) but I hope I can make it.”

Having competed at 21 tournaments around the world in the last year in search of ranking points – with the top 10 performances counting towards her final ranking – the 23-year-old admits that she has completed a lot of her university work while on her travels.

”I’ve done a lot of my coursework on planes – I wrote 6000 words when I was in Australia and another 3000 in Peru. Everyone in my department has been really helpful and supportive,” said the badminton player who is working in the labs on a research project at the moment as part of her MSc.

Hadia’s coach, Pete Bush said: “Hadia has improved steadily throughout her time in Bath and everyone at Team Bath is pleased to see she’s qualified for London 2012. It’s particularly impressive that she’s achieved this while studying for an MSc.”

Dr Momna Hejmadi, Hadia’s Director of Studies, added: “We are delighted and proud to hear of Hadia’s sporting success. She has been an inspiration to her colleagues and peers, showing an impressive level of dedication and commitment to her sport, while maintaining the high academic standards demanded by an intensive, full-time MSc medical biosciences. We wish her the very best for the coming months.”

The importance of Further and Higher Education for athletes

Having previously competed as an international modern pentathlete in two Olympic Games, winning both European bronze and World Championship silver medals, I am now a Professor in Applied Sport and Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University. My main area of expertise is in physiology and I have also helped to train and work with various celebrities for Comic and Sport Relief challenges in recent years, including David Walliams recent eight day swim of the River Thames.

With less than a year to go until the start of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games the fever is growing, there is no doubt about it. This event only comes around once every four years and it is over 60 years since we lasted hosted the Games in this country so to have that opportunity is really exciting for young people. What I am finding is that people want to get involved as much as they can at any level or responsibility.

It was awesome to compete in the Olympic Games myself – there is no other way to describe it. I grew up in an era and as an athlete when it was mostly unfunded so I had to work and study as best I could in order to sustain my level of training. Though, that did not make the training any easier as I was still training up to 40 hours a week, for five different events and it was a big sacrifice. The sacrifices are huge but at the same time the rewards are incredible. I have had the opportunity to travel around the world which is something very few people get to do in the way I did.

The problem athletes have nowadays is that, unfortunately when they come towards the end of their career, they need other skills and another career to pursue in order to support themselves financially. I think that is why going into further and higher education is important because people learn new skills and have knowledge to fall back on. I am fortunate that a lot of what I do now is related to sport as I am Chair of the Scientific Committee for the 2012 ICSEMIS Pre-Olympic Conference which is incredibly exciting. In addition, I regularly work with athletes, look into academic research and undertake applied practical work. There is no doubt about it, there is no better time than now to be involved in sport science or sport and exercise medicine.

Since 2006, I have also become involved with Comic Relief and I have assisted many celebrities in completing some of the toughest challenges. Often, people ask me how I came about training celebrities and helping the likes of Cheryl Cole, Chris Moyles and Gary Barlow to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and Eddie Izzard to run 43 marathons in 51 days. I was just lucky enough to be offered opportunities and I have taken them throughout my career even if, at times, there were no financial rewards and heavy workloads.

I have been lucky in my career to take the opportunities when they come, to compete in the sporting arena and run my academic studies alongside everything – that has helped me to get into the different types of areas I work in now. I became Director of Research for the British Olympic Association, and subsequently Director of Science and Research at the English Institute of Sport and it was off the back of this I got offered the role with David Walliams to train him before he swam across the English Channel in 2006.

More recently, I was worked with David on his eight day swim of the River Thames from Gloucestershire to London for Sport Relief. I take most of these challenges on physically as well (swimming around three quarters of the distance) and it is a huge amount of work and preparation to get the delivery just right. All the plaudits go to the celebrity and rightly so, and it is quite an interesting environment to be working in – when you are utterly anonymous! Though, if things are going badly you are the one that has to find the solution. David did incredibly well and it was an astonishing feat. I have contributed to eleven charity projects now and we have all helped to raise in excess of £12 million for people who are less fortunate than ourselves. There is no greater reward than that quite frankly.

Of course, during the River Thames swim there were issues surrounding the purity of the water but you cannot expect to come away from a challenge like that unscathed. Imagine swimming for 12 hours a day, every day, for eight days – it is the ultimate endurance test.

Greg Whyte is a Professor in Applied Sport and Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University and was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Roger Mosey

Broadcasting London 2012 – the BBC prepares for the Olympic Games

As Director of London 2012 at the BBC, I take an overview of everything that is related to the Games. This can range from sport broadcasting, to news or cultural events. Together as a team we also work with actors from dramas and comedies who are developing Games related ideas and we are across everything the BBC does that has a London 2012 connection to it.

The BBC has covered the Olympic Games for many years now but we have never had the Olympic Torch Relay run for 70 days in our own country nor the London 2012 Festival for 80 days here, so being the host nation broadcaster is definitely a different scale of challenge.

Our project team and London 2012 management group take an overview over everything that the BBC is doing. We have one central budget that we use to provide the content for the Games and this applies across various media platforms including television, radio and online genres. We want our coverage to reach 100 per cent of the people in the United Kingdom, and as the BBC is already consumed by about 98% of the population nearly every week, we want to produce content and coverage that is of interest for everybody.

For the vast majority of people they will be consuming our coverage for the sporting content and that is the most important aspect, but the fact is some people will come to watch the BBC Proms or the sitcoms – so that is the principle of something for everybody. We are all in expectation of that great year we’re all hoping for in 2012. It is important we are able to help give people great memories and broadcast great moments, that is near the top of our list.

As a British public service broadcaster we have been running our apprenticeship schemes and work experience opportunities. Our work experience scheme initially started around the five host London Boroughs and there have been three people from that scheme who have gone onto work for BBC Sport in Salford and become very successful. A lot of our apprentices have previously been in or are still in further education and they learn very quickly. We are delighted that these schemes stretch all around as well and are not only London based, for example BBC Scotland are involved.

In addition, the school report, world class lessons give students the opportunity to work as reporters. We have over 3,000 schools now taking part in our world class project and that was our target when we set out. We have been able to make that in November this year and it is really positive we are progressing ahead of where we were predicted to be. I think all of these projects work alongside the Games and help to change peoples lives for the longer term. The legacy of the Games is very important for us and we are quite optimistic we will be able to create a lasting legacy for 2013, 2014 and beyond.

Editorially, we have set ourselves five targets for next year. To put them concisely, we want to deliver great coverage of the events that are happening, deliver brilliant sporting coverage, collaborate with news teams nationally, globally and locally, deliver new innovative digital coverage and create that lasting 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games legacy.

Something we are very passionate about and believe is very important is the Olympic Torch Relay. It will visit communities around the United Kingdom and will literally arrive on people’s doorsteps so I think it is a great way to get people engaged in the Games and it should not be underestimated. London 2012 will be a very special Games and the aim is that nobody is left untouched by the BBC’s coverage next year.

Roger Mosey is Director of London 2012 at the BBC and was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Chris McGeorge: Thousands of young people participate in ‘Flames Lighting the Way’ programme

‘Flames: Lighting the Way’ is a physical activity and healthy living programme promoting the Olympic and Paralympic values to young leaders and primary school children.

Developed at Loughborough College, the project has now been delivered by approximately 100 schools and colleges across the UK, reaching more than 60,000 young people and has received the London 2012 Inspire Mark.

I cannot believe how well the ‘Flames’ project has gone. I helped to develop and implement the project at the College, which then went on to work with the British Heart Foundation in Loughborough, and within the space of 18 months over 20,000 young leaders and 50,000 children have gone through the programme. We have recently appointed a Scottish international student, Guy Learmonth, who is an 800m runner and he is going to be the face of ‘Flames’ for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The legacy is already in place for the project after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and that is really exciting.

We have evidence to suggest that the programme has made a big difference to those involved because teachers have said that they have seen a day-to-day change in the behaviour of children as they refer back to the Olympic and Paralympic values when an issue arises. ‘Flames’ participants in sport sessions, whether they like sport or not, come away having had a fantastic experience because it is their opportunity to shine and is very inclusive. In the future, we will look to target the ‘Flames’ project at more world class sporting events in the UK and engage with as many organisations and authorities as possible.

As the Elite Athlete Education and Welfare Officer at Loughborough College, my role is to ensure all elite athletes who study at the college, and that includes the National VolleyBall Academy who are based here, access world class coaching with National Governing Bodies (NGB). On a day-to-day basis I have one-to-one meetings with athletes working in a variety of sports including athletics, swimming and taekwondo – helping to manage the athlete’s career which is here and now.

The education side of things is flexible as I work closely with the academic staff to ensure the elite athletes are completing their education even if it might take longer than normal. This is important, as they combine their academic work and training at key times, especially when a competition is close.

An athletes education is really important because sometimes they are dropped into the elite Loughborough environment and they have to adapt because it is not what they are used to. At home they may have been training up to four times a week but all of a sudden they are training twenty hours a week here. It can be a bit of a shock to the system and it is managing that change which is crucial. I work with the NGB’s and coaches at the college to help them through this period. If a students starts to fall behind in their work or is struggling to adapt to a new change in surroundings, it is my job to sort out things and put out the fires.

I know from my experience that as an athlete you pick up new skills all the time, and when I retired from athletics and went into coaching, I did not realise the knowledge I had picked up along the way. What we are trying to do at Loughborough is put an old head on young shoulders and this is what we try to instill in the youngsters. As the students develop they will start to make more decisions for themselves and become more independent – this is one of our aims. We do not want to spoon-feed them but help them to become independently minded people who are capable of making decisions for themselves.

The prospect of London 2012 next year is exciting for all of us and I think every time there is a announcement it creates a new buzz around the place. When the countdown told us there were 500 days to go and then a year to go, it is very inspiring. We have a number of athletes at Loughborough who will be very high profile at the Games and this is exciting for everyone. We have also been shortlisted for the Young Games Makers programme with our National VolleyBall Academy and this is a great opportunity for 16 to 18-year-olds to take up exciting roles at London 2012 venues.

Chris McGeorge is a former Commonwealth Games 800m bronze medallist who now assists the development of many of the UK’s up and coming elite athletes. He is one of Podium’s Games Experts and was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

Team GB’s Chef de Mission praises ‘massive’ role young people play in London 2012

British Olympic Association chief executive and Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt has paid tribute to the work of young people and volunteers in getting involved with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games project.

With it being only a matter of days before the Games begin at the end of the month, Hunt, who was speaking after the announcement of the Team GB women’s football squad to compete in London, said young people make a “massive” contribution to the Games.

“The involvement of young people and volunteers getting involved with London 2012 is massive. The Games is about inspiring the next generation, whether that’s to compete in sport or inspire people to be the best they possibly can be.

“Having young people involved as volunteers in the Games or in any other way is massively important.”

As CEO of the British Olympic Association, the National Olympic Committee for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Hunt is responsible for making sure Team GB are ready and in the best possible shape to achieve medal success in London, and in turn, better the team’s performance in Beijing (Great Britain finished fourth in the medal standings and accumulated 19 gold, 13 silver and 15 bronze medals).

He added: “Preparations are going really well and most of the athletes are already selected. All the planning is really coming together and we’re assembling the last pieces of the jigsaw now as we get closer to the opening ceremony. But I’m really pleased of where we are right across sport.”

Leading BBC Sports presenter and BUCS President John Inverdale praises impact of Higher Education

Leading BBC Sports presenter and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) President John Inverdale has helped to launch this year’s Universities Week at the View Tube in London.

The 54-year-old is one of sport’s most recognisable television personalities and is supporting the third annual national campaign to showcase the wide and varied contributions of the UK’s universities to society.

Inverdale is specifically involved with the Become a Commentator competition, where students have been encouraged to upload short clips of their reporting or commentary to the Universities Week YouTube channel to win the chance to commentate in front of thousands at this year’s BUCS Outdoor Athletics Championships held at the Olympic Stadium.

The entries have been whittled down to a final three and Inverdale will provide top-class coaching to each of the candidates, before a winner is selected.

“It’s impossible to say where broadcasting is going to be in 12 months time let alone five years time, but with the growth of online media there are going to be huge opportunities across the board for students and graduates.

“For people who have the will to get into broadcasting, as I did many years ago, this is a great chance for somebody to actually commentate on an action packed Saturday night at the tournament.

It’ll be quite nerve wracking commentating in front of 46,000 people when it’s the first time you’ve done it. It’s nerve wracking enough for the guy on the starting block getting ready to run the 100 metres, but I can tell you it’s going to be equally as nerve wracking for the guy commentating too,” he said.

Before moving into broadcasting, Inverdale’s university experience provided him with the perfect stepping stone in which to embark on a career in the industry.

After completing his studies at Clifton College, Bristol, he attended the University of Southampton and graduated with honours in history. It was there where his interest in the media stemmed from and he became editor of the student newspaper.

“I made a conscious effort to get some work experience under my belt so I could go to the local media and say that I’d done this and experienced that. My work may not have been very good, but at least I did it. University had a big impact on my career.”

Inverdale’s passion for sport was evident throughout the years he spent in education and he fine-tuned his broadcasting skills by completing a post-graduate journalism qualification at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff.

Following his first break into the local media at the Lincolnshire Echo, he joined BBC Radio Lincolnshire in 1982 and then several years later, became BBC Radio 5 Live’s main sports broadcaster.

Radio work then led to television and he has presented many of the world’s top sporting events since for both mediums. From the Olympic Games to football and rugby World Cups, Wimbledon Championships to Open Championships, Inverdale has covered every sport there is to play over the past four decades and is widely considered as one of Britain’s most reputable broadcasters.

Double Olympic champion Daley Thompson

Legacy after London 2012 all-important, says famed double Olympic gold medallist

Daley Thompson’s Olympic Games heroics in the 1980s, where he won two prized gold medals in the decathlon (Moscow, 1980 and Los Angeles, 1984), will bring back stirling memories for most sports followers.

Widely acknowledged as one of the finest athletics talents Great Britain has ever produced, the man who broke the world record on four separate occasions in his specialist sport, knows a thing or two about competing in the big arena, and perhaps more so, understands the impact an Olympic Games can have on a generation.

Thompson, himself, as a BT Ambassador for London 2012, regularly visits educational institutions around the country and aims to inspire young people to get involved with sport (and the Games) to promote its core Olympic values.

As we enter the home straight and prepare for the ‘biggest show on earth’ next month’, the 53-year-old admits that the Games’ legacy in the future is very important.

“I think the legacy that we can have from the Olympic Games is getting sport and healthy activity back into schools, colleges and universities.

“It’s vital that we get youngsters playing sport because it teaches you some great lessons,” he said, speaking after opening a BT Art of Sport Exhibition celebrating stunning artwork to commemorate the Games.

He added: “The Games are supposed to (inspire a new generation) and I think it comes down to how they are presented. There’s no point in inspiring a new generation, if for instance, there’s not the infrastructure in place and know how to sustain it. Once you’ve inspired the generation they need somewhere to go and somewhere to play sports.

“Most of us learn our sport at youth level and in education, and that has a huge affect on an athlete in terms of health and being competitive – and you get that in education.”

Away from the competitiveness of the sporting world, Thompson paid tribute to the wider, cultural impact the Games has had across Great Britain.

“That’s what the Olympics do (have a big impact). People haven’t been prepared for the huge scope and the Games’ ability to connect with people. I think that there’s no reason why just the sport should be thriving – and things like culture should play a big part in it as well.”

Looking ahead to the London 2012 Games and Team GB has a tough assignment to improve upon their performance in Beijing. The team finished fourth in the medal rankings in 2008 – accumulating 19 golds, 13 silvers and 15 bronzes.

“We did unbelievable in Beijing, but I think we’re going to do better here in London. We’re all at home and we’ve got the whole country behind us. We’ve invested a lot of money and our athletes are well prepared. I don’t see any reason for us not to do at least as well as we did in Beijing, and hopefully better.”

Having also reached the pinnacle of his sport in the world, European and Commonwealth Games, Thompson offered some simple advice for young people wanting to follow in his footsteps.

“If you’re going to get properly coached, get properly coached. The best place to learn the sport will be at the local athletics club because they’re take you to whatever level you can get to and you will then go somewhere else to take you on to the next level.”

Daley Thompson was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby at a BT Art of Sport Exhibition  – inspired by the drama and spectacle of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on Monday 25th June at Clarendon Fine Art in London.

Images courtesy of Chris Searle’s Photography.

Labour Member of Parliament and Shadow Minister for Higher Education Shabana Mahmood

Labour Member of Parliament and Shadow Minister for Higher Education Shabana Mahmood has underlined the importance of the sector in society and praised the work of students.

Shabana, who was elected to Westminster in May 2010 (becoming one of the first female Muslim MPs in the country) said that work needs to be done to sustain high university numbers and ensure the sector continues to equip people with crucial skills to keep Britain’s economy moving forward.

Before moving into politics, Shabana won a place at the University of Oxford to study law and involved herself in a number of programmes designed to increase university applications from students from non-traditional backgrounds, including ethnic minority students.

In Shabana’s Birmingham Ladywood constituency, the Labour MP praised the contribution students make to local society – something which she says displays students’ developing skills.

“In my constituency, we have Aston University, while the University of Birmingham sits just outside my boundary. Birmingham City University is close too.

“I have quite a lot to do with all three universities and one of the impressive things is how university students generally get involved with volunteer programmes, local projects and community group activities – especially ones which have a focus on sport or are Olympic themed.

“They can only be run because they’ve got volunteers from universities getting involved and helping to run the programmes. All year round that’s a very impressive thing university students do.”

And Shabana believes the enthusiasm is still there amongst young people regarding the prospect of going to university.

“I recently spoke to a young kid who was born and raised in Sheffield but had never been inside Sheffield Hallam University before and it was the first time they were crossing that threshold. They were really excited to find out what it was like inside, as they’d seen all these big buildings before but weren’t quite sure what was going on inside.

“You could see a bit of fire had been lit inside thinking about what they might do when the decision comes to go to university in a few years.

“The more we do of this kind of work the better. In my own constituency education has been much improved over the last decade or so but it’s still not high enough and we’re still not getting enough people going to university.”

With the London 2012 Games set to take centre stage in the UK later this month, Shabana said she has seen at close quarters students embracing the Games and involving themselves in the ‘greatest show on earth’.

”It’s hugely impressive (the uptake of opportunities/voluntary work by students surrounding the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games). 

”In terms of the Games I’m very hopeful and confident we can have a great Olympics in our country. I think the work of students to push forward the Games will make the Olympics that much more successful.”

Hugh Robertson

Minister for Sport praises young people’s London 2012 enthusiasm

Minister for Sport and the Olympic Games Hugh Robertson MP has praised the enthusiasm of young people towards the London 2012 Games

Young people, many of whom are students, are set to play a key role in the Olympic and Paralympic Games spectacles.

From volunteers to student athletes, Robertson paid tribute to the contributions that have and are continuing to be made.

Speaking at Britannia Village Hall in the London Borough of Newham, which received a funding boost from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities London 2012 legacy programme, Robertson said: “One of the rather strange things that I’ve been conscious of in the eight years that I’ve been involved in this process is that the level of enthusiasm for the Games is greatest among young people.

“Young people really get this and it’s going to be a great year for them to be part of.”

With only days to go until Friday’s Opening Ceremony and the start of four weeks of sporting action, the government minister continued: “The sense of excitement is absolutely tangible. Over nine million people have already turned out and followed the Olympic Torch Relay around the country, and that is way beyond our wildest expectations. It tells you a lot about the sense of anticipation.

“If you look at big sports events elsewhere in the world generally they are judged by the quality of the welcome they get from volunteers.”

University graduates eye London 2012 medal success

Two of Team GB’s brightest medal prospects in the 400 metres women’s hurdles have highlighted the important role that higher education played in their early sporting careers.

Christine Ohuruogu MBE, Britain’s only reigning track and field Olympic champion winning gold four years ago in Beijing in the hurdles event, and Perri Shakes-Drayton, rising star in the same sport,  both completed their respective university degrees while competing at the elite level of competition.

Ohuruogu, who was born just a stone’s throw away from the Olympic Park in Newham, graduated in 2005 with a degree in Linguistics from University College London, and she later received an honorary doctorate from the University of East London.

As she prepares to add yet another big title to her name at the London 2012 Games, Ohuruogu admitted it was challenging to complete her studies and compete at the same time.

“At university I started off playing netball so I didn’t end up playing athletics until I was 18 or 19. It was hard at times but I enjoyed university and found a way to squeeze it all in,” she said.

Looking ahead to the London Games and Ohuruogu revealed how she can draw from her Beijing experiences in “some aspects”, but admitted this summer represents new goals.

“I try not to solely base my preparations for this year on something I did four years ago. I think every year comes with its challenges and I just try to deal with those challenges on the face of them so it does help (Beijing 2008) but I don’t rely heavily on my past performance. I just try to deal with what comes next.”

Hot on the heels of Ohuruogu and preparing to experience the Olympic Games for the first time is Shakes-Drayton.

The 23-year-old 400 metres hurdles specialist graduated from Brunel University in July 2011 (attaining a 2:1 in Sports Science), and skipped her indoor season that year in order to complete her degree.

Tipped by many to go all the way to the medal podium in London, Shakes-Drayton attributes her sporting and academic success down to “hard work”.

“It was hard but I got through it because I prioritised my training and also my studies,” said the two-times Bronze medallist at the 2010 European Championships.

“I wanted to do well in both so I knew something would have to be compromised and that was my social life. I knew good things would come out of it and I felt the need to prioritise. I went along with it and put hard work into both and good things have come out of both of them.”

University graduates eye London 2012 medal success

Mayor of London praises ‘wonderful’ role of students in London 2012

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has singled out the contribution of students to the London 2012 Games and praised the “wonderful” job thousands of students have done to get involved.

London’s charismatic Mayor welcomed the Olympic Torch to Middlesex University’s campus on Wednesday and joined in with the celebrations, along with hundreds of students and local people.

The 48-year-old paid tribute to students’ impact on ‘the biggest show on earth’: “They’ve done a wonderful job for us. Thousands of students from all over London and all over Great Britain have taken part in the spirit of the Games and clearly many of our greatest athletes are still doing their studies.”

The Conservative politician and former journalist said the Games would be difficult to put on as a spectacle without the invaluable input of students and a range of volunteers across various workforce areas.

“We’re grateful for what students have been doing. I’ve talked to loads of them who are on their holidays or taking a break from their studies, but they’re here to do this (see the Olympic Torch visit and get involved at the Games). It’s fantastic to see it.”

As part of the Games, London House at City Hall will host a series of flagship debates with the world’s leading thinkers contributing to developing London’s future vision as a smart, successful and inclusive city.

Olympic legend Bob Beamon

1968 Olympic Games gold medallist Bob Beamon hails importance of education

1968 Olympic Games gold medallist Bob Beamon has underlined the invaluable role Higher Education played in his career whilst revealing his belief that education and sport offer the perfect blend for a student athlete.

The New York-born long jump star, famed for his record-breaking jump of 8.90 metres in Mexico City 44 years ago, studied at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, the University of Texas at El Paso, and Adelphi University as an up-and-coming athlete.

So much is Beamon’s belief in the value of education, after setting a world record which would stand for 23 years, he is on record as saying he decided to return to his studies rather than attempt to beat his record.

Beamon says: “There’s a great link between studying and sport. We talk about mind, body and spirit. We have to have a healthy mind as well as a healthy body and the spirit has to be in the same accord,” he said, speaking at The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel ‘Art of the Olympians’ exhibition at the Main Wilkins Building, University College London.

“You’ve got to split it when one day you’re an athlete and the next day you’ve got to be a student. I think we perform extraordinarily well on both sides of the fence. We always look for challenges as athletes.”

Beamon, who devotes much of his time nowadays to helping young people, is also director of athletic development at Florida Atlantic University.

He added: “My experiences and learning has been a truly magic carpet ride.”

With Team GB’s class of 2012 under intense pressure to deliver medals at a home Olympic Games, Beamon said the key to success is coping with the expectation.

“In any given situation you’re going to have pressure because this is the top of the line, you can’t go any further (than the Olympic Games) in terms of showcasing your ability.

“It’s going to be nerves, experience and the will to win. We’ll see some great performances, we’ll see some sad cases, we’ll see some surprises, but as we build this wonderful puzzle, we’ll see great things happen here in London,” said the US Hall of Fame member.

Sporting legend Bob Beamon was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Admission is free to The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel ‘Art of the Olympians’ exhibition, which runs until 13th August at the Main Wilkins Building, University College London.

Paralympic champion Aled Davies

Cardiff Metropolitan University alumnus on his gold medal winning Paralympic Games experience

Cardiff Metropolitan University alumnus Aled Davies has revealed how his “life has changed” since winning two medals in the Paralympic Games in London.

The 21-year-old, who won gold in the F42 discus final and smashed a British record in the process, also claimed bronze in the F42/44 shot put event in front of a capacity Olympic Stadium crowd.

Speaking to Podium at the Paralympic Ball, and with both Games medals hanging proudly round his neck, Aled described what it was like to win gold in London.

“It’s been a mad journey to get to where I am now and to finally get the rewards and enjoy being a Paralympic gold medallist,” said the Paralympic debutant, who has trained at Cardiff Metropolitan University for the past five years.

“Life has changed so much for me over the last 48 hours and it’s been crazy to go from a Welsh discus thrower to a star in the Paralympic athletics so I’m so happy right now.”

With the success of the Paralympics creating masses of media and spectator interest, Aled said the London 2012 Games have set down a marker for 2016 hosts Brazil to follow.

“The profile of the Paralympic Games has raised so much and there’s actually a demand for Paralympic athletics which is great and it’s the same for every other sport in the Games.

“It’ll be good if we can keep progressing that because the Paralympics is growing by the millisecond and you can’t go backwards now so I just hope that Brazil have got it ready because they’re going to have to make it even bigger and better.”

Aled was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby at the Paralympic Ball fundraising event for the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Agitos Foundation.

Double Olympic champion Tom James

Double Olympic gold medallist’s debt to the University of Cambridge

Double Olympic gold medallist Tom James MBE has said he owes the University of Cambridge for much of his elite rowing success.

The 28-year-old, who won gold in the men’s four race in London to add to the same title he secured in Beijing, studied engineering at the University (taking time out of rowing to complete his studies) and competed in many infamous University Boat Races as a Cambridge Blue.

James’s success in London places him firmly alongside the greats of British rowing and the Cardiff-born athlete more than recognises the important role Higher Education played in his early career.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Square Mile Relay in London, where James was cheering on his Olympic colleague Mark Hunter, he told Podium: “The University of Cambridge helped me to develop an enormous lot. I owe Cambridge an awful debt of gratitude.

“Having the education and degree on my CV is great in case I want to do something else but for the race and rowing side university was a great centre for learning about my sport and being educated in rowing. I competed in the boat races and having access to great coaches and facilities and other good rowers – that’s where you learn a lot.”

James, a former Cambridge President, added: “It helps to focus on something else as well (education). It was quite strange going from the (university) environment to being a full-time athlete. When you’re at university rowing is very much something else you do in life as there are lots of other things going on.”

Image credit: British Rowing

Tom James MBE was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Adam Hawkey

Adam Hawkey, who is Director of the Centre for Osteoporosis and Obesity Research and Education (C.O.R.E.) at the University of Wolverhampton talks to podium reporter Stuart Appleby about the important role of Higher Education in the Olympic and Paralympic Games and how London 2012 can inspire young people to take up science related degrees.

The Higher Education sector has contributed tremendously to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in a number of different, but connected, ways.

Universities across the UK acted as ‘holding camps’ for athletes ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic competitions, here at the University of Wolverhampton’s, for example, we were hosts to those competing in Judo and Taekwondo.

The excellent work being done on the development and testing of new equipment, the monitoring of athletes’ training programmes and the sports science support will be profoundly linked to the Higher Education system (many being current or former university students or staff).

The Games are also likely to give something back – inspiring people to study science, engineering and technology related courses. Here at the University we have seen a steady rise in interest on our sport and exercise science degree and this is likely to continue post Games.

Furthermore, technology has played a huge role in London, having very positive effects on performances. This has been particularly evident in events involving wheelchair athletes, cyclists, and amputees. In some of these events, the athletes would unlikely be able to produce the sort of performances they have been without these technological advances.

However, it is important to stress that technology is only one part of a more complex myriad of components contributing to success; other advances in nutrition, training, and most importantly the hard work and dedication these athletes (both Olympic and Paralympic) put in.

Technology is driving us forward in everything we do; transport, medicine, communication etc. This is no different in sport – Olympic or Paralympic. The application of science and technology to sport has often been accompanied by significant, sometimes dramatic, effects on athletic performance.

Those competing in the respective Games are at the pinnacle of their particular events and therefore have access to the most advanced equipment, techniques and support available. However, the technology is human driven – so rather than going beyond what is possible it is simply enabling athletes to maximise their potential.

The debate regarding enhancing performance has been rife in previous months, particularly around the regulations for athletes like Oscar Pistorius competing in the ‘able-bodied’ Olympic Games. This debate has now intensified with recent comments by the ‘blade runner’ about unfair advantages within some of the Paralympic events. There may be a time when so-called disabled athletes become ‘more able’ than their able-bodied counterparts; perhaps in the not too distant future we will see an amputee run faster than an ‘able-bodied’ athlete. This will need to be closely monitored by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF).

We are currently in the midst of a technological revolution and this should be embraced. While it may be unwise to allow science to have a free-reign on sport it should certainly be allowed to be applied as readily as possible to enable improved performance, enhanced safety, and increased participation. The demand from elite professionals often filters down to other populations. Those who have lost limbs due to disease, conflict or accident have been able to climb mountains and a whole host of other achievements. We should therefore not underestimate the impact on other echelons of society that enhancements in sporting performance bring.

Adam Hawkey is Director of the Centre for Osteoporosis and Obesity Research and Education (C.O.R.E.) at the University of Wolverhampton (where he is also a Senior Lecturer in Biomechanics and Head of Sport and Exercise Science). He is also Chair of the Biomechanics Interest Group (BIG) within the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES), and sits on the Editorial Advisory Board of both The Sport and Exercise Scientist and the Journal of Sports Therapy.

Queen Mary, University of London student on her ‘fantastic’ Games Maker experience

Queen Mary, University of London MSc scholarship student Jasminder Kaur Satnam Singh has completed her Games Maker experience of a lifetime and says being involved in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games has equipped her with invaluable skills and know-how to put on her CV.

Throughout the Paralympic Games, Jasminder operated as a Team Event Services Games Maker and played an important role in helping thousands of people in the Olympic Park, as well as dealing with ticketing inquiries and issues.

On top of this, the Materials Science student, who finishes her scholarship at university this month, worked as a drummer and marshall in the London 2012 Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

“I started off doing volunteering at Queen Mary and I ended up helping out at the London Marathon and Sainsbury’s Sports Relief Mile, so that went well ahead of the Games in London (after applying for a role),” she said.

Interestingly, you may already recognise Jasminder if you’ve paid attention to Games-related advertisement throughout this summer. As the London 2012 volunteer explains to Podium, Jasminder found herself as one of the ‘faces of the Games’ for a leading Olympic and Paralympic sponsor.

“We received an email from McDonald’s asking whether any Games Makers would like to be involved in the advertising campaign for the Games, so I sent in a photo and some information and they called me back for casting and a photo shoot. I did the photo shoot and it’s all over London, so that’s another big deal for me, I’ve never done something like that before.”

Looking ahead, Jasminder is hoping to use her Games Maker experiences in future roles and work. She added: “I’m sure it’s going to be a really big thing on my CV right now and I’ve gained lots of new skills, it’s really fantastic.”

She was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Wheelchair basketball official’s London 2012 voluntary role offers a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity

Robert Gordon University graduate and Goldsmiths, University of London assistant librarian Craigie-Lee Paterson has worked as a volunteer throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games and said she was inspired to make the most of a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

Craigie, who graduated with a degree in librarianship, has worked as a wheelchair basketball official, in two different roles, during London’s showpiece sporting events.

As a team liaison volunteer for China’s women’s basketball team during the Paralympic Games, Craigie has been following the fortunes of the athletes and attending training sessions and matches, as well as helping visiting athletes with sightseeing in London.

During the Olympic Games, Craigie’s duties differed, slightly, but she was still involved in the thick of the action as a scoreboard operator. From updating the score and statistics to highlighting the names of each player during the respective nations’ national anthems, it was as important a job as they come.

“To volunteer at the Games is a a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the Olympic and Paralympic Games are massive, everybody knows about them and to be able to say I’ve been involved is great, especially as I live in London and am local to the Park,” Craigie told Podium.

“(For students) I think people have realised in order to get work it’s not just about education, but the other things you’re able to do and put on the CV. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to take on and learn lots of different skills.”

She was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby on the Olympic Park.

Coventry University student makes sure London 2012 Games spectators enjoy their experience

A Coventry University student and London 2012 Games volunteer has played her part in ensuring visitors to the Olympic and Paralympic Games make the most of the experience.

Chigo Natasha Orunta, who is just about to begin the third year of her economics degree at the University, is currently welcoming hundreds of people to the ExCeL Arena every day as a Venue Entries Spectator team member.

Prior to this role at the Paralympic Games, Chigo guided people on VIP tours throughout the Olympics (meeting a certain Mo Farah in the process) and also worked as a team leader moving equipment from track side and preparing the facilities for sporting competition.

“At the ExCel Arena I’m helping all the spectators come through security and enter the venue, ensuring everything’s in order so people can enjoy their day,” Chigo told Podium.

Chigo simply applied for the position online a couple of years ago, and with her added experience working at the London Youth Games she secured the position.

The Coventry student’s main duties are to direct people, check bag sizes/suitability, tickets and make sure people get through the venue’s security areas.

Throughout the Games thousands of volunteers, many of them students or recent graduates, have contributed to a unique four weeks of sport in Great Britain – something Chigo says has been very noticeable.

“A lot of the people (getting involved) are students and I think Higher Education has played a big part in it. At my university, with some of the football matches being played at Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena, everyone knew about the Games and it played a big part.”

London 2012 security role ‘opens up many opportunities’, says Hartlepool College of Further Education graduate

Hartlepool College of Further Education public services foundation degree graduate, 21-year-old Rebecca Osborne talks to Podium about her experiences working in security operations for G4S during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and how the Bridging the Gap (BTG) programme helped her to secure the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’.

I got the opportunity to take part in the security operation at the Olympic and Paralympic Games after being told about BTG by Kevin Fincken, my tutor at Hartlepool College. I’m really grateful to him for mentioning it as it has really opened up so many opportunities for me.

I actually applied for the security role two years ago so I’ve gone through a really long training/accreditation process to get here. It has all been so worth it though as I’ve had such an amazing experience.

After getting through the written application phase, I had lots of really interesting and different training to help prepare me for what I have been doing for G4S.

During my training, I took part in lots of theory and practical sessions. The practical sessions were really interesting as it involved lots of role play where we were placed in different situations and given guidance on how to react. It really opened my eyes to the broad range of issues that we need to think about as security staff.

Our theory based work touched on things like stewarding, customer services, conflict management, door supervision and interviews.

I completed my college course because I have always had an interest in working in security. I am hoping to pursue a career in the police force in the future and more experience will really aid my career progression.

I had done some security work before such as stewarding at football matches before the Games and I often voluntarily help out at other events. I love the industry so much that I don’t think you need to be paid to enjoy what you’re doing sometimes!

I like to know that I am playing my part in helping people enjoy themselves and making sure that they know they are safe.

After the conclusion of my foundation degree, I delayed applying for another job because I wanted to work at the Games so badly. I also knew more options would open for me with more experience in the industry.

I’m so grateful that my college tutor suggested I got involved in the BTG programme and he has been amazing and so supportive throughout the whole process. He is still supporting me to this day and it is great to know that I can call him if I need some advice on a situation.

I think the most interesting part of what I’ve done so far is meeting so many different people. Other G4S colleagues come from such a diverse background and it has been so good to see people from so many backgrounds/parts of the UK coming together to secure the Games.

It was great to see all the athletes too. I’ve worked in the main entrance area for all athletes and have seen all of the famous names that have taken part at my venue. I must admit that I didn’t know many of them but I’ve sometimes found out that I’ve been speaking to a world champion after I’ve checked their passes and let them through!

At one stage, I even asked to see television presenter Gary Linekar’s pass without knowing it was him! It doesn’t matter how famous somebody is, if they don’t have an approved pass, there is no way that I will let them in!

My day-to-day role at the Games has been dependent on what shift I am working but, for most of the Olympic Games I was based at the athlete’s reception area. I was mainly responsible for checking that people with the right access were coming into the right area of the Aquatics Centre. Being at the athlete’s entrance meant that I’d often be faced with journalists trying to get into speak to the sports people – it was very high pressured as they can be very challenging but I really enjoyed it.

I had to face some very abrupt and insistent people at times but my training helped me deal with these situations.

My experiences have opened up so many options for me that I hadn’t considered before. I now hope to look at both the police force and other security based careers.

The experience is so broad, not just in terms of what I’ve done at the Games but also the training side of things. It has really given me the confidence to kick on with my career and take it to the next level.

The whole programme, the G4S training, the guidance from experts, will really help me progress in my future.

Former international swimmer believes London 2012 silver medal success showcases Higher Education’s contribution to elite level sport

Team GB’s remarkable Olympic Games medal haul surpassed many people’s expectations, and while Britain’s swimming squad, perhaps, didn’t enjoy the same measure of success (returning three medals overall), former international swimmer and Loughborough University masters graduate Julie Johnston has paid tribute to the vital role universities play in swimmers’ careers.

Despite high expectations leading into various events, British swimming struggled to compete against other less-fancied nations’ (and the heroics of the USA and China), but University of Bath student Michael Jaimeson’s 200m silver medal breastroke success was a reminder that the Higher Education sector continues to nurture some of the country’s finest talent.

Jaimeson, a sports performance student, is coached at the University by David McNulty and smashed a British record in the final.

“For Michael, who has combined his studies and training in the lead up to the Games, it would have been a matter of discussing his requirements with his course tutors and making sure his academic workload was at the right level to maximise his potential in the Olympic year, and it clearly worked,” said Julie, who is a Podium Games Expert and performance consultant.

“Although I’m not aware of Michael’s personal circumstances at the University of Bath, the institution would have helped him to design a perfect schedule going into the Games, which is crucial support for a young athlete. I think Michael has shown that he’s withstood the pressure of balancing the two and handled it very well, certainly with all the expectation in the final and media pressure that he was experiencing at that time.”

Having competed at three Commonwealth Games, as well as several European and world championships, Julie is familiar with the pressure of competing whilst studying, but the former Irish international swimmer admitted that universities are making the balance between the two easier and easier.

“Universities recognise that if they can help athletes and support their sporting ambitions alongside their academic careers then they’re going to make themselves more available and desirable for elite performers. Many athletes actually find that training full-time isn’t what’s best for them, and although there are benefits to training full-time, that there’s no doubt, other athletes need other interests and things to focus on away from sport.

“A lot of universities now will allow athletes to take courses part-time, certainly do the first-year full-time, then part-time from second year onwards, so it allows athletes to combine the two. With the excellent facilities that are available on campus’ across the country too, it’s a great platform.

“This support structure allows athletes to be in a situation that once they’ve finished their sporting careers they have other options to pursue, having gained the necessary qualifications.”

Although it is acknowledged that top-of-the-range facilities are important for performers, Julie believes wider research and university project-led expertise can help improve athletes’ performances in other areas.

“The facilities are crucial, but universities can provide nutritional support, sports psychology, strength and conditioning and a support culture which can help make that split-second difference for an athlete. This type of information, in the modern day, can really make the difference.

Julie Johnston is a former Irish international swimmer, Loughborough University sports and exercise psychology masters graduate, current Loughborough PhD student and performance consultant. She was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

University of Bedfordshire staff and students embrace London 2012 Olympic Games opportunities

When the opportunity presented itself for University of Bedfordshire staff and students to volunteer and secure full employment at the London 2012 Olympic Games, it is safe to say most people didn’t have to think twice.

The British Handball Association approached the University in advance of the Games to gage the level of Olympic interest and to see whether people might like to take up the summer experience of a lifetime; needless to say the response was overwhelming. As the University’s sports development officer Julia Lines explains, “it was a privilege” for her and many other staff and students to play their part in Great Britain’s biggest, single sporting event of all-time.

“We were approached by the association and the level of interest, in the first instance to work within the sport, was very high amongst students, and staff. Then a lot of people signed up to the challenge.”

The University’s sporting link with handball is heightened by the fact that the University’s director of sport and professor, John Brewer, is chairman of the British Handball Association.

Speaking exclusively to Podium, Julia tells us about her role in the official services division of the handball event.

“Throughout the Games I’ve been partly responsible for looking after International Handball Federation officials, referees and technical officials – who work with statistics and monitor timings. I’ve been looking after their needs and helping out wherever I can.

“The Games have been a great opportunity for the University to showcase its skills and talent on a global platform, and from a personal perspective, it’s been a real privilege to walk into the Olympic Park everyday. We’ve all been lucky enough to work in amazing atmospheres (at the Copper Box and Basketball Arena) and every morning when I’ve walked through the Park people have been having fun and getting involved – that’s what can define the Games’ legacy,” says Julie.

As a result of handball’s growing sporting status and popularity in Britain, television coverage and the world’s eyes on Team GB’s fortunes throughout the Games have popularised the sport to the masses.

Julie said: “Our students have stepped up to the plate and worked in key roles and performed well in important jobs at the handball Olympic events. There’s been a collective pride amongst our students and staff and I think we’ve made a big difference to handball.

“The whole country’s embraced the Games and as for the student Olympic workforce, Further and Higher Education sectors have been involved in the London 2012 project right the way through from pre Games training camps to helping athletes compete in a brilliant arena. Students have taken on voluntary work and made the most of employment opportunities. Universities have been able to contribute and I think the sector is embedded within the Games.”

Away from the Olympic Park and before the start of the new academic year, legacy programmes and funding are already well in place at the University, according to Julie.

“The London 2012 Games have been embraced by the student body and increased wider interest in sport. We’ve been fortunate to be involved in the Active Legacies fund, among other programmes, and we’re able to make the most of the post-Games glow where we can offer more sporting opportunities to new and current students. That’s evidence in itself of a direct legacy from the Games.

Julia Lines is a sports development officer at the University of Bedfordshire and she was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

University of Leeds Olympic officer completes dream Games Maker experience at London 2012

Matt Davison, the Olympic Programme Officer at the University of Leeds talks to Podium about his role as a Games Maker at the Olympic Games, and the contribution of Higher Education to London 2012.

I’m the University of Leeds’ Olympic development officer, and throughout London’s Games, I’ve worked as a volunteer. as part of the handball administration team in the Olympic Park. Myself, along with several students from the University, have been based in the competition management office and we’ve really been at the heart of the sport’s operation.

It’s been a great experience and those of us affiliated with the University have experienced all the sporting action and worked behind the scenes as well. On an average day, shift patterns tend to vary, but because of the sheer volume of matches taking place each day – we’ve had early starts and late finishes.

It had always been an ambition of mine to work at the Olympic Games, and as I’ve worked in sport for quite a few years, it was the culmination of that really which made me want to get involved. We were asked to put forward a list of nominees and people who would be interested in getting involved in the Games from the University, and we’ve tried to engage with the Olympics as much as possible.

I was really enthusiastic about getting involved in the sporting side of things and it’s been a great experience.

Obviously, Yorkshire’s had a very successful Games and the success, for example, of the Brownlee brothers, who have both studied at the University, highlighted this further.

On a general level at the University around 40 students have completed Games Makers roles throughout the Games, some students carried the Olympic Torch and we’ve tried to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to make the most of the Games.

I think people have really acknowledged the contribution of the Higher Education sector and seen a lot of students and graduates who’ve competed at the Games, as well as the thousands of student workforce, Games Makers and university staff and student volunteers across the board. A lot of UK athletes are based at university facilities and we’ve seen that a good structure can help an athlete competing at the elite level. The recognition seems to be a bit more out in the public domain now and people can look at universities and see the contribution they’re making.

Matt Davison manages Olympic and Paralympic Games activity at the University of Leeds and you can follow him on Twitter.

Hackney Community College student revels in London 2012 catering and hospitality experience

Hackney Community College student Philomena Asumang, who has worked in catering and hospitality throughout the London 2012 Games, praised her college for helping her secure an “amazing opportunity” and said the Olympic experience will stand her in good stead before she starts a degree at Middlesex University in October.

Philomena, 22, from Hackney, completed one year’s training at the College and is due to start a degree, studying environmental health at the University.

Having worked at the ‘greatest show on earth’ throughout London’s Olympics, Philomena told Podium that she has developed news skills and career-related knowledge from the experience.

“I’ve been working at Jamaica House during the Games (the nation’s temporary home throughout the competition) and I’ve also completed shift work on the Olympic Park. It’s been really great and it’s been good to see that opportunities have been given to different types of people with differing skills. It’s been amazing and everyone in the team gets on really well and works well as a unit,” she said.

“The Games is right on our doorstep, and after my work was confirmed, I’ve been telling everyone that I’m working at the Olympics this summer! I’ve loved every minute of it and it hasn’t disappointed at all – it’s been a great experience.”

Hackney Community College, in the years leading up to the Games, have helped to train the vast majority of London’s Games Makers and played a key role in placing thousands of students in employment positions, particularly catering roles – due to the College’s superb facilities.

“The College were really supportive in helping me secure the position and I probably would have never of got the opportunity if I didn’t go. The course opened lots of doors and provided lots of opportunities.”

Philomena’s future career interests lie in environmental health and she revealed the roles and divisions that she’s operated within during the Olympics have provided her with the perfect background and skills to launch a promising career in the field.

“The experience of working at the Games is such a boost to my CV. My plan is to move into the field of environmental health and food safety, so the Olympic experience has helped a lot with what I want to go into for a career. We’ve had to be really focused and careful how we prepare things on the Olympic Park (and at Jamaica House), so it’s been really beneficial. I’ve got a taste of it already and I’m going to study it, so it’s been amazing in terms of my future prospects and goals.

My Higher Education experiences have helped me to success on the Tennis court

I am a third year sport psychology student at Roehampton University and wheelchair tennis player.

My experience at university has been absolutely brilliant so far and I have loved every minute of it. I am living on campus again this year and it is great to be close to where everything is happening. I train at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, which is close to where I live, so everything is ideal.

Before I decided to take up wheelchair tennis at the age of 15 or 16, I used to play wheelchair basketball and I trained a couple of times per week. I ended up meeting someone at a training session and he suggested I get involved with tennis and give it a try. It was from there really where it all began and I now train up to five times per week.

I train alongside the likes of Andy Murray at Roehampton and it is great to be in that environment. It is inspiring watching players like him and it makes you want to work even harder and get to the highest level. The facility is amazing and everyone works together. The goal is to become the best player you possibly can.

The Tennis Foundation organise world class tennis events around Great Britain and my tournament season started at the end of February and runs until November, so it is a long and tough season. This year is incredibly intense and tennis can be a very unforgiving sport. It is an all round sport and trying to compete each week can be quite difficult, especially with my academic commitments.

As I am in my final year, things have got a lot more intense, as I have been doing my dissertation and working on coursework. It is a case of putting the work in and the university have been really supportive. I am on a sports scholarship at the university and it is a big help. Before I came to Roehampton I was working full time and completing my training around my job, but it was becoming very difficult.

I looked into a scholarship and after talking to the university, they were interested in taking me on. I ended up securing a place through the Clearing system and it has really helped. I worked with a strength and conditioning coach for the first two years of my degree and that was amazing. The scheme also provides athletes with some extra finance to help cover both academic and sporting costs, which is very important.

This year has been tough so far and the level of competition is high as people are trying to qualify for a place at this summer’s Paralympic Games. Anybody who’s anybody is at every tournament, and for me, it is a taster to see how far I can go. It is unlikely that I will qualify for London 2012 but I want to take in each and every experience from a Paralympic year and use it to help me in the future.

I am already looking forward to the Rio 2016 Games and I hope that all the experiences I take in now can stand me in good stead for when I am competing at that level in a few years time. It will be beneficial to see how far I have come and find out what I need to work on. Hopefully I will then have the opportunity to test myself against the world’s best in the coming years.

Liam O’Reilly is a Wheelchair Tennis player, Roehampton University sports scholar and a BT Storyteller for the London 2012 Games. You can keep up to date with Liam’s fledgling tennis career by following him on Twitter. He was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Loughborough student juggles academic and sporting commitments in pursuit of Team GB success

Tilly Gray is a Team GB swimmer and student currently based in Loughborough.

Having made her debut for Team GB at the Belgium Flanders Cup in January, Gray picked up two gold medals at the British Universities and Colleges Sport Long Course Swimming Championships earlier this month.

The Swindon-born flyer, who is set to compete at trials for the London Olympics in March, raced to first place in the 100m and 200m butterfly in Sheffield, recording a personal best in the latter event.

At the moment, the 20-year-old is combining her academic studies and sporting commitments at Loughborough College.

“I am studying a Loughborough University accredited degree but I am completing it at the college,” she said. “I have been here for three years and I am in the second year of my sports science course. Hopefully, I will be able to split my year and modules in 2012/13 so I can extend my time here.

“That way, it would not be as stressful, as I am doing my degree full time at the moment. Next year, I will study for one day a week and concentrate on my training for the rest of the time, as well as keep up with my coursework and exams.”

Gray singled out the support she has received from both the college and university as being crucial to her development as an athlete.

“I have an athlete scholarship mentor who advises me on any queries I have and the support I receive is really good. The teaching staff are quite lenient and understanding with student athletes. My course is mostly coursework based this year and that has made it easier. It is a question of balancing everything when it is in full swing and it can be quite tough to fit in rest and recovery time.

“It is tricky to combine studying and competing, but other people are in similar situations to me and that is quite helpful. Everyone is going through it together and it is really good to have that network of people around you. The vibes from everyone are really positive.”

As expected, Gray’s day-to-day training schedule is intense, on top of her academic studies.

“I usually get up about 4.45am, head to the swimming pool for 5.15am and then train for a couple of hours. I will then go back home for breakfast before heading to my lecture at 9am. I usually have a break between lectures in the day and I will use that time to go to the gym and complete my weights programme. Having refuelled, I then train again in the evening.”

Gray’s real aim is to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, however a place at the London 2012 Games might not be out of sight if she continues her impressive form.

“It will certainly be tough to compete in London because I am up against some very good swimmers. I think it is open to everyone to make their mark.”

Gray, who receives some funding to take the pressure off every day living expenses, is seeking further sponsorship to enable her to continue her development both academically and in the pool.

Interview by Stuart Appleby

Could Social Media take the London 2012 Games by storm?

I am currently conducting research into the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter by London 2012 sponsors.

Having previously researched sponsorship objectives and how brands can use sponsorship to build brand equity, it is fascinating to take this further and look into the London 2012 Games.

The aim of my research into Facebook and Twitter is to develop a typology and a set of groupings of how social media can be used to activate sponsorship. With the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games being the most high profile event that is soon going to take place, it is the perfect case study. For example, I am tracking the sponsors of organisations like the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG).

I have been tracking all of the London 2012 sponsors on Twitter since January last year and there has been a big increase in their usage of the medium and how much they are posting as we get closer to the Games. In addition, the sponsors list of followers is also increasing, as they become more familiar with the activity.

Away from sponsorship and there has already been a lot of discussion about how London 2012 could become the first ever ‘Twitter Olympics’. More and more people are now going to Twitter to find out what is happening first before other mediums.

During the Games, people will be constantly tweeting about what is going on and I think it will definitely shape opinion during and in the run up to the Games. People will be able to find out what is happening without turning on the television and people will be able to follow the Games from their workplace.

Of course the usage of different types of social media can vary. Twitter has the potential to create a mass volume of posts, more so than other media, but London 2012 sponsors are also creating their own dedicated YouTube channels to advertise.

Social media has the potential to snowball quickly, grab people’s attention and it is immediate. The great advantage of social media is that you can engage with followers before you start an advertising campaign to see what they might be interested in. It is an opportunity to ask followers questions, receive their feedback and build a London 2012 campaign around it.

Twitter, specifically, has a very large and loyal following. There are still large amounts of the general public who are not engaged with Twitter, but I think more and more people and companies are using it. It is perhaps a cliche to say it will be the ‘Twitter Olympics’, but it will bring the Games to life for people who are not even in the Olympic Park.

Dr Leah Donlan is a Lecturer in Sports Marketing at the University of Central Lancashire. She is also a Podium Games Expert and can be followed on Twitter.

Interview by Stuart Appleby

The London 2012 Games can have a real cultural impact

I am a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Liverpool, with a focus on cultural policy and event-led regeneration.

Since 2011, I have been Head of Research at the Institute of Cultural Capital, a joint initiative of the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University. Specifically, my research approach focuses on the analysis of city narratives – including institutional city marketing/branding, media representations and individual interpretations – and their effect on local self-perceptions and national or international image projection. I am also a member of the Culture and Education Advisory Committee of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games (LOCOG).

The Olympic and Paralympic Games come with very standardized structures of delivery, for example, there will be 16 days of elite sporting competition. I am interested in how London, as hosts, will leave their mark on the Games. Given that the city has worldwide cultural status, it will be interesting to see how this culture infiltrates the Games and helps to shape its narrative.

There is a real opportunity for change and the chance to get involved with sporting excellence can have a big impact. When London won the bid to host the Games back in 2005, creative programmers were put in place to coordinate activity and make sure that every region of Great Britain would be inspired. I would like to look into how much of an affect this has had and how visible the London 2012 Games have been as a result. It would be very interesting to look at the nationwide picture.

The London 2012 Festival is also very important as it integrates both Olympic and Paralympic activity, and there is no distinction between the best. This brings together both sides of the Games and is fantastic for generating interest and debate.

I believe the London Games stand as good a chance as any that have gone before to make the most of these cultural initiatives, put a legacy in place and influence people.

Beatriz Garcia is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Liverpool. Since 2011, she has been Head of Research at the Institute of Cultural Capital, a joint initiative of the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University. Beatriz is a Podium Games Expert and she was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

British Universities & Colleges Sport set to shine at the London 2012 Games

I was very fortunate to take part in two Paralympic Games myself. In 1992, I competed in Barcelona and it was a fabulous event. The people of the city really took the Paralympic Games to their hearts and it was an excellent environment to be in. Four years later, in Atlanta, it was also a great experience. The British Paralympic Association made it easy for Paralympians to relax, switch off and refresh away from the pressures of the Games.

When I look ahead to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, I am often reminded that the Games will be coming back to where they started. It was us in Great Britain who began the Paralympic Movement in Stoke Mandeville in 1948, so it is a real opportunity to celebrate that heritage. I cannot wait for the Games to start and it will be fantastic.

The Games will help to raise the profile of Paralympic sport, and with the terrific work of Podium and Channel 4 who are broadcasting the Paralympics, they are doing a fantastic job in promoting the event. I believe we will see a significant increase in people’s awareness of Paralympic sport and how special it is to be a Paralympian.

Many of our student athletes could be participating at the Games, and with the support, development services and facilities at all levels in Great Britain, the preparations are going very well. The build up to the Games will help to increase participation, heighten student athlete performance and raise the standing of competition. More and more talented students are making a big impact in their chosen sport.

David Padgen is a National Disability Sport Officer with British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS). In January 2008 he became the first European with cerebral palsy to climb Kilimanjaro. He has been with BUCS since January 2010, researching and improving the university sport experience for disabled students. He was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Disability Sports Coach helps to find new generation of Paralympians

As a ParalympicsGB throws coach, I work at grassroots level for both Portsmouth City Council and England Athletics. I coach pupils with a disability in mainstream and special schools, helping them to take part in sport and enter competitions.

At the moment I am helping to put London 2012 legacies in place around Portsmouth. For England Athletics, I take introduction days for future Paralympians, including taking some of the throws sessions. It is a great way to discover talent and hopefully we will continue to find would-be Paralympians from these kinds of programmes. This is an ongoing initiative and I will continue to help out Paralympic throwers a lot next year as well. There is more opportunity now then there has ever been before.

Ahead of the London 2012 games, I think it is very important to try and put this legacy in place early, because there is great talent out there that just needs to be discovered. Until you start to drive these initiatives, schemes and projects, it is difficult to know whether they are working. Talent Identification in Paralympic sports is not as established as it is for Olympic athletes, however it is equally important. We need people turning up to sessions and finding out that they have got the skills to compete in a range of sports, even if they have not competed before.

We are looking for people who will go the whole hog and really go for it. We need to catch potential Paralympians now as the Games is getting closer and you do not know what talent could be out there. I spotted and recommended many talented Paralympians last year and they have gone through the ranks quickly, while others are still working hard to progress. To have the opportunity to represent your country is a great goal to strive for.

We have a lot of young Paralympians coming through and we have got a throwers squad in Portsmouth who could do very well. We are mixing up sessions so everyone has the opportunity to train in professional group environments, with different coaches and players.

The Games are not too far away now and young people are very enthusiastic about the prospect of this once in a lifetime event coming to London. In addition, teachers in education are also doing their bit and they want to help out wherever they can.

It is crucial that training sessions and opportunities to get involved are very inclusive, as the key thing is to sustain a legacy for future Games. You have to have a lot of commitment as a coach, you have to be passionate about the sport you are working within and you have to enjoy it. Hopefully we can continue to start Paralympians off locally and then help them to join mainstream clubs, who are affiliated with a National Governing Body (NGB) like England Athletics. From there they start to realise what they want to do.

It is a pathway which starts in schools and colleges and then competition managers put people into competitions. My job is the easy job, I have to select the best talent and then help them to join a club of some sort. I get more of a kick out of helping others than I did when I was competing myself because you get to see someone progress. We guide them to where they want to be and help them be the best that they can be.

Bronwin Carter is a ParalympicsGB throws coach and she works at grassroots level for Portsmouth City Council and England Athletics. Bronwin is a former world weightlifting champion and 10-time European champion. She was talking to Podium’s Stuart Appleby.

Parasport encourages involvement ahead of the London 2012 Paralympic Games

I run the National Parasport programme, which is a partnership between ParalympicsGB and professional services firm Deloitte. Deloitte Parasport was created to provide a clearer pathway towards elite sport for those people with ambitions of representing Great Britain at a Paralympic Games.

Parasport is a web based programme designed to inspire, engage, educate and signpost disabled people, and those interested in disability sport, to high quality sporting opportunities. The way we do this is by creating lots of information in one place, where people can go and find out what they need to do to get involved. We then hope Parasport starts them off along the right track to get involved in their chosen sport.

What we are trying to do is make disability sport as accessible as possible. It is not always easy to find a sport you want to do and for a lot of people in the UK with a physical ability it is simply finding out what sport is suitable. At Parasport we have looked to bridge that gap and cater for this need in the industry.

We want to help lead people through a journey, which will then lead to a high quality outcome. Whilst we completely agree that people with a disability have the right to participate in any sport they want to do, sometimes certain sports are more accessible than others. The website offers an online classification tool which explains classifications for disability sport in simple terms. We look to offer development opportunities in their chosen sport, manage expectations initially and then progress their skills and development.

It is always important to be inspired by people and our real life Case Studies section displays personal Parasport stories to show what other people have gone on to do. In this section, people talk freely about their Parasport experiences and the benefits of getting involved. Our key message is that Parasport is for everyone, regardless of whether you want to participate recreationally or competitively. Maybe you want to take up a sport in order to get active, or maybe you have ambitions of representing Great Britain. Whatever your aim, Parasport can help you find a local club so that you can get involved.

The benefits of participation are clear for all to see and this sets you on a pathway to achieving your personal best – whatever that might be. In my role, I work with the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of Sport, liaise with the County Sports Partnerships and maintain good relationships with Sport England. For me, it is a constant push to make quality information available on the Parasport website, continuously increase our database and create a networking community.

To also be able to support ParalympicsGB and the team ahead of the London 2012 Games is absolutely phenomenal. It is not even a once in a lifetime opportunity, it is more than that. I relish the benefits of sport and this event encapsulates everything that is good about it. We have got a great ParalympicsGB team and hopefully the Games will make people more aware of how good we really are. I think we are better prepared then ever before.

We also work with the Youth Sport Trust and the English Federation of Disability Sport to increase sporting opportunity and activity. We want to fast track talent in disability sport and break people’s perception of it, and we do that by communicating with the next generation of young people now. The big obstacle to future success in Paralympic sport is the strength of grassroots involvement and the number of people playing sport at community level, this is something we are committed to improving.

Nick Heyworth is the National Parasport Manager for ParalympicsGB. He has previously worked for Sport England and he was talking to Podium reporter Stuart Appleby.

Further Education basks in London 2012 medal success

Former Cambridge Regional College student Jonnie Peacock set London alight on Thursday night as he sprinted to a Paralympic gold medal in the men’s T44 100m final.

The 19-year-old beat the likes of defending Paralympic champion ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius to send the capacity Olympic Stadium crowd into raptures and break a new Paralympic record by finishing in an extraordinary time of 10.90 seconds.

The teenager told the BBC after his performance that the feeling of being a Paralympic champion was “amazing”.

Success for Further Education alumni did not end there, as former Calderdale College student ‘Hurricane’ Hannah Cockroft also broke a Paralympic record to win gold in the T34 200 metres final.

It was the 20-year-old’s second gold having already fended off fierce competition to win the 100m final in London.

As Podium’s FE and HE medal table illustrates, many colleges have been performing well at the Games – including Royal National College for the Blind, and Telford College of Arts and Technology, who can both toast to gold medal success.

By Stuart Appleby

Mauritius Paralympic team round off University of Surrey pre-Games training camps

The Mauritius Paralympic team have arrived at the University of Surrey Sports Park to fine tune their final stages of preparation ahead of the Games in London – which begin next week.

The visiting nation are the final competing team to use the facility this summer and follow 16 other countries that have already occupied the venue over the course of the past few months.

Over 250 athletes competing in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, including the Mauritius team, have used the University’s facilities as a base and benefitted from the experience.

As well as providing on-site accommodation and a diverse selection of food to meet athletes’ requirements from different countries on a day-to-day basis, visiting teams had the chance to train in a similar environment to that of the surroundings of the Olympic Park and its venues.

Indeed, superficial ‘home advantage’ paid dividends for several Olympic nations who trained at the Sports Park before the Games, as China, Singapore and Spain all went home with medals (three silver and three bronze, in total).

To revisit the Sport Park’s Olympic experience and find out what went on behind the scenes, read the venue’s blog here.

By Stuart Appleby

Students play their part in the lighting of London 2012 Olympic Games cauldron

City and Islington College student Desiree Henry and Arts University College Bournemouth student Adelle Tracey played their part in Olympic Games history on Friday night as two of the seven young sports people to light the Olympic cauldron during London’s spectacular Opening Ceremony.

In front of a global television audience of billions of people, both students had a key role in the procession.

Desiree, a 200m World Youth champion, is studying for a BTEC Extended Diploma in sports science at the City and Islington College’s centre for applied sciences, while Adelle is a 800m and 400m middle-distance runner.

Both students took to Twitter to describe how they felt after being involved in one of the Games’ most historic moments.

Desiree said that she was on “cloud nine” and went on to thank double Olympic gold medallist Daley Thompson for nominating her for the honour.

She tweeted: “For me personally I thank Daley Thompson for nominating me and being my mentor through this historic moment ! +Danny Boyle!!”

Fellow rising athletics star, Adelle, said on Twitter: “The most incredibly amazing experience of my life so grateful to have got this opportunity, thank-you for all the lovely messages #emotional.”

University of Surrey welcomes the world for London 2012 pre-Games training camps

Most of the 16 pre-Games training camp nations arrived at Surrey Sports Park this week and sampled the University of Surrey’s impressive on-campus facilities.

Around 250 athletes and delegates have started their London 2012 preparations in English conditions and the University will cater for, accommodate and support the visitors.

The international teams training in Surrey include Team GB, USA, Antigua & Barbuda, Singapore, Philippines, Sweden, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Estonia.

Paul Blanchard, Chief Executive of Surrey Sports Park said: “Preparations are going really well and sixteen Olympic teams and two Paralympic teams will train here over a six-week period. The two weeks leading up to the Games is our busiest period where most athletes and delegates arrive.”

He added: “It’s a massive logistical operation but we’re used to it. We’ve dealt with international teams before and had a number of teams previously in shadow camps.”

Speaking during the Philippines’ Olympic swimming training session, the nation’s head coach Carlos Brosas praised the facilities on offer at the University and Sports Park.

“It’s probably the best place for us to train and camp out before the Olympics. The Games’ swimming events will be held in an indoor environment so this replicates it. This is the closest you can ever get to it.”

Follow Surrey Sports Park’s London 2012 activities on the Park’s blog.

Fundraising supports Sunderland College student’s London 2012 dream

Staff and students at Sunderland College are fundraising to support teenage sprinter Aidan Turnbull and help him realise his London 2012 Paralympic Games ambition.

The health and social care student, who won two medals on his debut for Great Britain at the World Indoor Championships for Persons with Intellectual Disability last month, is hoping to secure further funding to enable him to enter tournaments in the run up to the Games, and in turn, impress Paralympic selectors.

Turnbull, who is Diabetic and has learning difficulties which affect his reading and writing, is focused on booking a Team GB place for this summer’s Games.

“I am desperate to do well and impress the selectors in each event I compete in. It is a dream come true to be able to represent Great Britain and I hope I can do that in London,” the 18-year-old said.

The College’s disability advisor and Turnbull’s personal tutor, Richard Marshall has been helping to raise the much needed funds to support the sprinter’s progression, and with the backing of everyone at the college, nearly £1,000 has already been raised.

“Aidan is an incredibly dedicated athlete and student, supported by fantastic parents. We are raising money to help him enter as many competitions as he can to increase his chances of Paralympic selection,” Marshall said.

Anyone interested in donating to or sponsoring Turnbull should contact Richard Marshall on 0191 511 6622.

By Stuart Appleby

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Press Officer | Spokesman | Communications Professional | Digital, Video and Print News and Sports Journalist

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