Olympics won’t stop Sheffield’s sports venues making big splash, says council boss

Head first: British Olympic contender Tom Daley dives into London's new Olympic aquatics centre and, right, Sheffield's own Ponds Forge swimming complex.
Head first: British Olympic contender Tom Daley dives into London's new Olympic aquatics centre and, right, Sheffield's own Ponds Forge swimming complex.
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SHEFFIELD’S sporting venues will continue to attract major competitions and events despite competition from flash new Olympic venues, city council chief executive John Mothersole has predicted.

The launch of venues such as the £303 million Aquatics Centre in London this week by city-based diving star Tom Daley has placed a question mark against the future popularity of Sheffield’s major sports facilities Ponds Forge, the Don Valley Stadium, and English Institute of Sport.

Mr Mothersole said ‘thousands’ of jobs - not just at the venues but in the city’s hospitality sector - in hotels, restaurants and other services - depend on hosting sporting competitions.

The impact of the aquatic centre is of particular concern because Ponds Forge has been viewed as one of the world’s premier centres for water sports, attracting the last four FINA World Diving contests and currently hosting the national youth swimming championships.

The Great Britain Diving Squad, including Daley, is based in Sheffield for its pre-Olympic training.

Mr Mothersole said: “There was speculation the new facilities created for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester would spell the end for Sheffield but we have just had our best year ever for hosting sports competitions and events.

“What happens when competitions like the Olypmics are held is that interest in sport grows - so more events should be held in the UK. Sheffield still has much to offer. What we have discovered in this business is that shiny and new doesn’t always mean most desirable.

“Ponds Forge is still held up as the premier diving venue in the UK and the English Institute of Sport continues to attract events, beating other places. Most recently, there were almost 1,000 competitors there for the European fencing championships ”

Mr Mothersole said sports teams and competition organisers looking for venues focus on ‘wider’ considerations than just the venues themselves, including location, ambience and history of hosting events - which he believes are in Sheffield’s favour due to its track record.

The city is hosting 60 national and international competitions across its venues this year alone. Mr Mothersole added: “Am I worried for the future of our sports facilities? No. This city is very confident about its strengths - we are winning events that we have never done before and it is never going to be the case that because London’s had the Olympics, all the major events will go there.”

Mr Mothersole added that the future of the Don Valley Stadium was also ‘secure’ despite Rotherham United’s forthcoming move to a new stadium in the football club’s own town, built as the long-term replacement to its old Millmoor ground.

Lorenzo Clark, head of operations at Sheffield International Venues, said: “Sheffield has developed a world class sporting programme and one that the city is extremely proud of. We have set a benchmark as an international sporting destination of choice and are determined that we see even more events – sporting, leisure and business - come to the city in future years.”