The Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP, has joined the Mayor of London, Boris Johnston, and Olympic hopeful Zoe Smith to officially open the Europa Centre in Bexley.
The new state-of-the-art facility has received £1.24 million of National Lottery investment from Sport England’s Iconic Facilities fund, part of the Olympic and Paralympic legacy programme 'Places People Play', along with £600,000 from the British Gymnastics facilities fund.
“The Europa Centre encapsulates exactly what we’re aiming to achieve through our legacy investments,” said Jennie Price, Sport England’s Chief Executive. “Gym users from the local community can now enjoy their sport in world-class facilities. I’d like to pay particular tribute to Len and Yvonne Arnold who have put their hearts and souls into this project and helped to create a truly Iconic Facility.”
Despite its popularity, two years ago the Europa Gym faced an uncertain future. Based in leased premises in an outdated converted industrial building in Erith, owners Len and Yvonne were looking at the gym’s possible closure. The London Borough of Bexley led a project that worked tirelessly to secure funding from outside agencies to make the new Centre a reality.
“It is truly amazing to start with a dream of an ideal facility, and to be here today to realise that dream is testament to all those who joined in to help complete this extraordinary centre,” said Len. “I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all those that went the extra mile to make it possible.”
Mark Gannon, Executive Director Development, British Gymnastics said: “We are delighted that London now has this tremendous gymnastics legacy in Europa Gymnastics Club. It has been a pleasure to work with Len and Yvonne to realise their dream and of course the project would not have happened without support from Bexley Borough Council, Sport England, The Lord Mayors Legacy fund and Barrett Homes. The project was a partnership in the true sense, with multiple partners all pulling in the same direction and the result speaks for itself. British Gymnastics looks forwards to working with Europa for years to come and cannot wait to see what the next chapter in this amazing journey brings!’
The new Centre includes a martial arts and dance studio, a boxing studio, dedicated weights studio, fitness studio and gymnastics hall, and will also become a London 2012 Games Time Training Venue for both the Olympic and Paralympic Volleyball squads this summer. There will be 24 Olympic and 18 Paralympic teams training at the centre.
Speaking at the opening, the Minister talked about how this year’s Games will be the catalyst for a revolution in British sport at all levels over the next decade.
He said elite, community and competitive school sport will receive a boost off the back of London 2012 that can lead to a cultural shift in this country’s sports’ participation habits in the years to come.
“Sport in this country will benefit greatly from hosting London 2012 at all levels - from elite athletes to the grassroots,” said Hugh Robertson. “It is a massive opportunity for us to drive change and encourage people up and down the country to choose sport. We are doing all we can to put the building blocks in place so that sport is ready to capitalise in the days, months and years that follow London 2012.”