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Crayford Olympic legacy centre reflects on Games’ one year anniversary

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 July 2013

Len and Yvonne Arnold with young gymnast Toby McCarthy

Len and Yvonne Arnold with young gymnast Toby McCarthy

Archant

In 2010 the Europa Centre, then in Erith, was in dire straits. Three years on, the situation couldn’t be more different as the thriving gym has benefited from Olympic legacy funding which helped keep it alive.

Zoe Smith with Europa Centre owners Len and Yvonne Arnold and London Mayor Boris Johnson, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson and Bexley Council leader Cllr Teresa O'NeillZoe Smith with Europa Centre owners Len and Yvonne Arnold and London Mayor Boris Johnson, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson and Bexley Council leader Cllr Teresa O'Neill

he injection – £1.24million of lottery funding, £1.3m from the Olympic Delivery Authority and £200,000 from the London Mayor’s sports legacy fund – enabled the centre, owned and managed by husband and wife Len and Yvonne Arnold, to move to a plush new facility in Crayford.

Len thinks without the Games coming to London last year, the business would have gone bust.

“It got quite close to the wire. Without the funding, we’d have probably been finished.

“We were on our last legs, but the Olympics came along at the right time for us.”

He describes the last 12 months as “manically positive”. The gym’s members have increased from 1,600 in Erith to more than 4,000 in Crayford. Staff numbers have doubled accordingly.

The gym, which mainly concentrates on gymnastics, but has been the base for weightlifters such as Zoe Smith in the past, is now looking to the future after the euphoria of last summer.

The 58-year-old said: “The last 18 months have been the hardest I’ve ever had but I wouldn’t change them.

“We have a waiting list for every activity. We’d like to expand but this is a lovely problem to have.

“We have three gymnastic hopefuls who could be genuine medal contenders for Rio in 2016 – Catherine Lyons, Georgia Mae-Fenton and Gianni Regini-Moran.

“Our youngsters make us very proud.”

Yvonne, 60, is a former Team British Olympic gymnast and believes that the Europa Centre is “part of the Olympic legacy”.

She said: “We’re living the Olympic legacy. I know there was a lot of scepticism surrounding the Games but for me it summed up what it meant to be British – everyone got really into them once they started and the torch relay was brilliant.

“Without the Olympic legacy money we wouldn’t have been able to raise the cash to build the Crayford site ourselves.

“To have a facility like this in Bexley will provide opportunities for youngsters for generations to come.”


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