Islington sports centre to be used in the Olympics

Sobell Leisure Centre to be used by volleyball athletes competing in London 2012

THE Olympics is coming to Islington – as the Sobell Leisure Centre has been chosen as a 2012 training venue.

The leisure centre in Hornsey Road, Holloway, has beaten off competition to be chosen as the Olympic training venue for indoor volleyball.

This means that from the middle of July 2012, it will be used by athletes from around the world as they make their final preparations for London’s Olympic Games.

It is a major coup for the centre which at one point was in danger of being demolished.

Labour councillor Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for leisure, said: “We are absolutely delighted. It’s a recognition that the Sobell is a top class facility.

“It’s also a stark reminder that if it hadn’t been for the change in administration, Islington would not have had a taste of the Olympics – because there would have been a pile of rubble where the Sobell Centre currently stand“We were in real danger of having nothing to offer and not much to gain from 2012. Now we are going to have teams travelling into the Sobell, doing their training and practice matches, and undoubtedly spending money while they are here.”

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Islington Council’s previous Liberal Democrat administration planned to demolish and rebuild the Sobell Centre, although the proposals were put on hold when the economic crisis hit.

But when the Labour group seized power at the May 6 local elections, they scrapped plans to rebuild the centre and ploughed �1.7million of council money into patching up essentials such as repairing the leaking roof and replacing the outdated ice rink. Just over �250,000 in Olympics cash has also been put into the centre to enable it to become a 2012 training venue, and this has paid for a new sprung wooden floor and latest-generation indoor lighting.

Councillor Convery believes the building now has at least 10 to 15 years’ life.

It is hoped that when the volleyball players arrive, they will also hold outdoor exhibitions in the grounds of the Sobell.

Councillor Convery said: “We want to have some outdoor volleyball and we are going to put up seating to people can sit and watch. We want to make more use of the Sobell Centre’s grounds, half of which is used for occasional parking.”

The Sobell is one of 18 London centres that have so far been named as Olympic training venues to be used by athletes during and immediately before the games.

Seb Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee, said: “These are first-rate venues that will provide excellent training facilities for athletes getting ready for the biggest sporting competition in their careers.”