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Ohuruogu Compact Athletics Facility

18 September 2013

400m world champion Christine Ohuruogu (coach: Lloyd Cowan) today launched the world’s first ever Compact Athletics Facility, an athletics legacy initiative funded by England Athletics (EA), Sport England and the London Marathon Trust, with support from UK Athletics (UKA) in Stoke Newington School, east London. The facility, which includes a sprint straight, a long jump straight and pit, a high jump area, a running trail around the school and a throws area, is the first ever athletics facility in the borough of Hackney and aims to drive participation and club membership in the urban east London community. 

Newham and Essex Beagle Ohuruogu was joined at the launch by an eager class of sports students from Stoke Newington School and their head teacher Annie Gammon, as well as England Athletics chief executive Chris Jones, Sport England’s regional strategic lead for London, Hannah Bladen, and Hackney borough councillor Jonathon McShane.

The Compact Athletics Facility is the first of its kind, the brain child of England Athletics with Sport England providing development and technical support and commissioning architects to put the idea into reality. The variety of elements that make up the facility allow a wide range of athletic disciplines to be accessed in a confined space and for limited cost. Targeted at this busy area in east London, 400 people from the local community will use the facility out of school hours each week initially, as well as its everyday use by school children.

Double Olympic medallist Ohuruogu, who grew up a matter of miles from the new facility, spoke of how she hoped to see future stars of British athletics uncovered on the Stoke Newington track, where she mentored young athletes earlier today.

“Visiting schools like this and inspiring the next generation is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here to open a brand new type of athletics facility, giving thousands of local kids a chance to take part in the sport that has done so much for me.

“It’s great to see our sport’s governing bodies really taking the legacy of London 2012 seriously and getting creative with ways to get athletics into the inner-city. It’s crazy to think that Hackney did not have its own athletics track until now and the Compact Facility is a really good solution in a busy area with a lot of young stars waiting to be uncovered.”

The Hackney facility is an integral part of England Athletics’ aim to increase participation in the sport over the next four years across the country. The concept has been designed with community engagement in mind and is part of EA’s successful Run! Project, which has been linked to significant participation growth in the capital prior to and since the 2012 London Games.   

With the help of local community partners and the local athletics club, Hackney Hurricanes, the facility will continue to drive up participation in athletics across the borough and play a significant role in getting more Londoners to be more active more often.  

England Athletics chief executive Chris Jones was excited to see the idea become a reality.

“2012 left a positive and indelible mark on communities up and down the land, particularly in London. This facility will contribute hugely as a blueprint for other areas to follow. We are excited by the opportunities this development will bring as we strive to encourage more young people and adults to take part in our wonderful sport.”

Tony Shiret, Chair of London Region for England Athletics, praised the work of London's Community Participation team under the Run! project, which has driven this scheme since inception, with Hackney Activator Christina Oyebanji, Run! manager Rhian Horlock and London Manager Bob Smith attracting special praise.

“This facility will encourage a generation of Hackney athletes to fulfil their ambitions in the sport. It had come about following a true team effort led by our Run! project staff who have pioneered activation in the borough alongside the LB Hackney, the GLA, Virgin London Marathon and Sport England. We want to do more of this and take athletics to the people.” 

The London Marathon Charitable Trust’s chairman, John Bryant, was proud to support the initiative as part of the Trust’s ambitions to increase participation in sport and physical activity across the capital.

He said: “The London Marathon Trust is delighted to welcome this revolutionary athletics facility. Available space is hard to find in London, but the Marathon backing ensures we can provide sport for thousands of young people.  They are the grassroots, and from them will come a rich harvest - of both the elite and everyday athletes - which is the true legacy of the London Olympics.”

The Stoke Newington School, in hosting the facility on its premises, will have access for its students to run, jump and throw throughout the day, all year round. Head teacher Gammon was pleased to play host and revealed that she jumped at the opportunity when it was first suggested.

“We are delighted to have this facility in our school. We know that within PE lessons and after school our students, local primary school students and local people will be able to take part in athletics far more easily than before. I believe that athletics is a great participation sport for everyone – and, of course, for some, the facility enables them to develop towards elite performance.”

Hackney councillor McShane is delighted to be hosting the first of these groundbreaking athletics facilities in the borough – as well as Hackney’s first ever athletics facility of any form – and looks forward to the positive effect that it will have on its residents.

“I’m delighted that athletes of all ages and abilities now have a place to hone their skills in Hackney. This new facility means the London Olympics will leave a living legacy here in the form of a new generation of talented young athletes.”

Sport England’s Bladen revealed that plans for further Compact Athletics Facilities are in motion in an attempt to increase access to athletics in cities and rural areas up and down the country.

She said: “We are looking forward to working with England Athletics and UKA to develop more compact athletics facilities both in London and across the rest of the country. They provide an excellent environment for young people and adults to get into the sports of athletics and running, enabling them to develop their skills and interest either through recreational participation or by training to compete and hopefully developing lifelong participation habits. It’s great to see this pilot project come to fruition and I look forward to seeing many more.”

With UKA assisting in the planning aspect of the facility, chief executive de Vos was delighted that the vision could become a reality.

“UKA has been happy to lend its support to such a worthwhile initiative, helping to ensure that the Christine Ohuruogus of tomorrow are uncovered and nurtured at high quality facilities like this one. I look forward to seeing more Compact Athletics Facilities across the UK thrive, as I’m certain Hackney’s first ever athletics track will.”

Compact Athletics Facility at Stoke Newington School – funding breakdown:

Sport England - £116,000

London Marathon Charitable Trust - £150,000

England Athletics - £100,000