How the Midlands is preparing for the Olympics
Olympian effort for the Midlands
As the whole country warms up for the sporting spectacular of the year, Jayne Howarth looks at how the Midlands is preparing for the London 2012 Olympics
It’s taken seven years to prepare and cost an estimated eye-watering £11 billion to build the stadia - and now the London Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 is all but ready to begin.
The test events have passed muster at the various venues across the capital and the Olympic torch relay is already well underway across the country and will arrive at the main Olympic Stadium on the evening of Friday, July 27, to herald the beginning of the games.
The main events may be happening just a 100 miles or so from the heart of the Midlands, but we are still keen to embrace the spirit of this unique sporting event and are playing a part.
Not only is Coventry staging eight football matches at the City of Coventry Stadium, which is the Ricoh Arena and will return to its original name after the event, but Birmingham is also preparing to welcome the USA and Jamaican track and field squads, who will train there for a fortnight before the main event opens.
The London 2012 games has also been a huge boost for business in the West Midlands, with companies winning more than £525 million worth of orders and tenders for Olympic-related projects - the fourth highest region in the country.
Possibly the most prestigious of these is the Olympic torch, which has been manufactured in the region.
Each of the 8,000 Olympic and 620 Paralympic torches has been made at Premier Sheet Metal in Coventry and the burners - an essential part of the equipment - have been painstakingly tested and manufactured at Bullfinch, in Birmingham.
The strikingly designed the torch, which won the London Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award 2012 features 8,000 holes, each of which represents one of the torchbearers, taking seven minutes to punch them all.
Premier Sheet Metal has been working round-the-clock, five days a week, for 18 months to ensure that each welded torch is ready for the relay. Gez Halton, manufacturing director of The Premier Group said: “It’s the biggest contract in the public eye at the moment so I’ve been feeling the pressure and had a few sleepless nights.
“TPG has been offered other work off the back of this, however, and although work was steady before the Torch, obviously manufacturing had suffered a massive blow during the recession. The Torch clearly shows that we can diversify and do other things.”
Bullfinch had to undergo exhaustive durability tests to meet the London Organising Olympic Committee’s stringent demands.
The burner has to work in all weathers and temperatures: between -5C and 40C, up to 95% humidity, at an altitude of 400ft above sea level, and must be able to cope with winds of up to 50mph. It must also be able to cope with rain and snow (pretty much covering what the UK weather can throw at it!).
Orientation was another important consideration because the torch has to be able to remain lit when it is tilted up to 90 degrees.
To test the liquefied petroleum gas burner, which is designed to last between 13 and 14 minutes, it was subjected to a series of tests, including in the BMW wind tunnel in Munich, up Snowdon, and along a zip wire.
Birmingham City University academics have also designed a training suit that is fitted with sensors that track athletes’ movements so they can hone their techniques.
Olympic hopefuls have already begun testing the suit, including 17-year-old Mimi Cesar, a rhythmic gymnast from Sutton Coldfield, who is using the technology to perfect her routines for the competition.
Torchbearer John looks forward to historic run
John Ellery, who lives in Birmingham, is a sport for development expert and works with disadvantaged youngsters in communities across the Midlands.
He said he was honoured to have been selected as one of the torchbearers and will be running through Birmingham on Saturday, June 30.
Thirty-one-year-old John, who lives in Kings Heath with wife Laura and children Poppy, aged two, and eight-month-old George, is regional manager at Sported, a national charity that helps community sport organisations working with young people in disadvantaged areas.
He was nominated by work colleagues for his sterling work at Sported, where he has worked for the past two and a half years and previously made an impact in inner city Birmingham, as well as helping children with visual impairment.
“I knew I’d been nominated, but didn’t expect to be one of those chosen to carry the torch,” he said.
“I’m extremely pleased and proud and still can’t believe it. I’m really looking forward to taking part.”
John, who also fundraises for charity Ostomy Lifestyle after undergoing major surgery year, will find out where in Birmingham he is running this month (June).
“It’s great that it’s taking place in Birmingham and family and friends have said they will come and watch me running,” he said. “It’s certainly something to tell the grandchildren about.”
All Olympic torchbearers are being given the chance to buy the specially-made Olympic torch - something that John said he will do.
“It’s a unique piece so I’ll definitely be keeping it, although it looks quite big so I’m not sure where it will go in the house,” he laughed.
Our Olympic hopefuls
For the athletes who have sweated blood and tears to make it into Team GB, London 2012 is the ultimate goal.
There are many Olympic and Paralympian hopefuls from the Midlands who are hoping they can get to compete for their country and win a medal on their home soil. Here are just a few elite athletes from the Midlands who are either in or are still waiting to see if they can make the final push into the final Team GB to make history at London 2012:
Jessica Lloyd (Kidderminster) swimmer; Liam Killeen (Malvern) mountain biker; Naomi Folkard (Leamington Spa) archery; Nathan Douglas (Birmingham) athletics; Nick Skelton (Shrewley) equestrian; Rachel Smith (Coventry) rhythmic gymnastics; Tom Parsons (Birmingham) athletics; Yvette Baker (Birmingham) synchronised swimming; Zoe Derham (Gloucester) athletics; Sharon Laws (Cheltenham) road cycling.
In the Paralympics: Ellie Simmonds (Walsall), swimming; Sam Ingram and Joe Ingram (Coventry) judo; Mandip Sehmi (Birmingham) wheelchair rugby; Nigel Murray (Leamington Spa) Boccia
‘Inspirational’ Kyle looks forward to taking his turn in the torch relay
Kyle Brassington is looking forward to running his stretch of the Olympic torch relay in Stratford-upon-Avon on July 1.
The 12-year-old from Nuneaton has been undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia for the past three years and is described by his nominator as an “inspirational young man”.
Kyle, who lives with his mother Jayne, father Neil and 16-year-old brother Kieran, said he was shocked when he found out that he’d not only been nominated to be a torchbearer, but had been accepted.
“It was a surprise as I didn’t even think about doing it,” said the Nuneaton Academy pupil. “I’m looking forward to it because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Since his diagnosis, Kyle has helped to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, taking part in Beefy’s Great British sponsored walks that were organised by cricketing legend Sir Ian Botham and rattling a collection tin at Nuneaton Town FC, the club he supports.
When Kyle, who is undergoing his last round of treatment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, takes his turn with the torch in the historic town, he will be cheered on by his proud family and friends.
“I think there will be a good crowd of friends coming to watch me,” he said. “I’m quite excited.”
The Torch is made up of four key pieces - an inner and an outer aluminium alloy skin perforated by 8,000 circles that are held in place by a cast top piece and base.
Representing the inspirational stories of the 8,000 Torchbearers who will carry the Olympic Flame, the circles which run the length of the body of the Torch also offer a unique level of transparency - allowing people to see right to the heart of the Torch and view the burner system which will keep the Olympic Flame alive. The circles also help ensure heat is quickly dissipated without being conducted down the handle and providing extra grip.
The Torch stands 800mm high. Its triangular form has been inspired by the identification of a multiples of three that are found across the vision and delivery of the Olympic Games:
The three Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship
The three words that make the Olympic motto - faster, higher, stronger
The fact the UK has hosted the Olympic Games three times - in 1908, 1948 and 2012
The vision for the London 2012 Olympic Games to combine three strands of work - sport, education and culture.
The Torch weighs 1kg including the burner and gas canister.
Crafted from an aluminium alloy, developed for the aerospace and automotive industry that is lightweight whilst having good tensile strength and excellent heat resistance, the 8,000 circles also reduce the weight of the final design whilst ensuring strength isn’t compromised.
The gold colour finish embraces the qualities of the Olympic Flame - the brightness and the warmth of the light that it shines. The 8,000 Torches have a gold-coloured finish that delivers an aesthetic beauty whilst having the ability to withstand the temperature of the Flame.
The OLYMPIC torch comes to a town near you
Where is the Olympic Flame going?
The Olympic Flame will come within 10 miles of 95% of people in the UK, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. It will enable local communities to shine a light on the best their area has to offer - including celebrations of local culture, breathtaking landscapes and dynamic urban areas.
Up high, down low, really fast, super slow
As well as passing through more than 1,000 communities, the Torch Relay will include some breathtaking spectacles and rather unusual modes of transport.
Horseback, steam train and even a zip wire are all in the plans, with more to be announced between now and 18 May.
An evening celebration will take place at the end of almost every day of the Relay. The Torch will be visiting our area from the 30th June to 2nd July, here are some of the towns it will be visiting, be sure to get along and support the torchbearers when it comes near you.
Saturday 30 June
Burton upon Trent
Birmingham (Evening celebration)
Sunday 1 July
Newbold on Stour
Royal Leamington Spa
Coventry (Evening celebration)
Monday 2 July
The Torch was designed by east Londoners Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who won the opportunity through a competitive tender run by the London 2012 Organising Committee and the Design Council.
Basildon-based product engineers Tecosim, Birmingham-based LPG Gas specialists and manufacturers, Bullfinch and Coventry manufacturers Premier Sheet Metal have taken the design and moved it into mass production.
In April 2012 the Torch was recognised as the Design of the Year at an awards ceremony hosted by the Design Museum.