Cram urges county to go for gold

ATHLETICS legend Steve Cram yesterday urged Suffolk's tourism businesses to go for gold as they compete for their share of a potential �2.9billion windfall from the 2012 London Olympics.

ATHLETICS legend Steve Cram yesterday urged Suffolk's tourism businesses to go for gold as they compete for their share of a potential �2.9billion windfall from the 2012 London Olympics.

Speaking at Destination Suffolk, the Choose Suffolk development partnership's annual tourism conference, the World, European and Commonwealth gold medallist said the Olympics had unrivalled potential to capture the imagination.

'The power of the Olympic games is something nobody should ever underestimate,' he said.

Whatever negative issues were raised in advance, his experience of attending 10 Olympic winter and summer games as a competitor or, now, as a TV commentator, was that the nation hosting the event became fully engaged as the games approached.

And while competitors were focused on their events, many spectators and members of the media from overseas would also take the opportunity to see more of the host country.

Being just an hour away from London, Suffolk was well positioned to tale advantage of this but, with many people planning their trips 18 months ahead, there was no time to lose.

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'Will everyone get what they hope for from the Olympics? To honest with you, no,' he said. 'But will all the athletes get a medal? No.

'But the athletes who have prepared best will have a much better chance of winning a medal. You are in a competition with other regions for visitors and you need to be prepared.

'What ever ideas you have, waste not time whatsoever,' he added. 'It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so take it, and use it well.'

Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain, said the games were estimated to have potential to deliver a total benefit of �2.9bn to tourism over 10 years.

The opportunity went far beyond the spectators who would come for the two weeks of the games; it was a chance for Britain to make an impression, not just on spectators but on the visiting media and television audiences worldwide, which could transform perceptions of the nation and benefit the tourism industry for years to come.

Paul Simpson, managing director of Visit Manchester, said the city's hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2002 had provided lasting benefits, not just for the city itself but for other local authority areas across Greater Manchester, ranging from greater awareness among tourists to trade missions stemming from links made through the games.

Later, during a panel discussion, Ipswich Town FC chief executive Simon Clegg, who spent 20 years with the British Olympic Association, said he hoped the London games would prove a catalyst in raising the position of sport on Britain's social agenda.

One of the strengths of the London bid had been its success in lobbying ministers in every department of the Government about the potential of the Olympics for their particular area of responsibility, be it social integration, transportation, the environment or sport, he added.

The welcome at yesterday's conference, held at Trinity Park, Ipswich, was given by Choose Suffolk chairman Andy Wood, managing director of Southwold-based Adnams. He said tourism was currently worth �1.63bn a year to the Suffolk economy but, with the trend towards domestic tourism and the Olympics to come in 2012, there was potential to increase this substantially.

Other speakers at the event included Andrea Hill, chief executive of Suffolk County Council, and Alex Paul, tourism manager at Choose Suffolk.

He outlined the success of the partnership's promotional strategy and advertising campaigns last year, and said the focus for this year would again be on the county's ability to deliver an authentic visitor experience, good value for money and opportunities for indulgence.