With the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics about to get underway, the sense of anticipation that I get in the run up to the Summer Olympics and Paralympics is not quite there yet. That said I am sure it will come as soon as the Games commence.
Perhaps, it is because of our temperate climate that snow sports are not something that we follow so avidly as a nation, unlike say football and rugby.
When you look at the medal table, we consistently rank in the lower percentile, which means we perform about as well in the Winter Olympics as we do in Eurovision!
I am being intentionally flippant here and in no way do I want to underestimate the outstanding achievements of our Team GB athletes, but it got me thinking how we could cultivate success similar to the London Olympics, which saw us rise from 36th to 3rd, and how our region could potentially play its part.
Ironically, despite having one of the lowest snow days count across the country, the broader Business West region has played its part in winter sports and Winter Olympics gone by.
The University of Bath is home to the UK’s only bobsleigh and skeleton track. Bristol snowboarder Jenny Jones won a gold in Sochi. Eddie the Eagle comes from Cheltenham. In addition, of course Shelley Rudman is a three times Olympian and won a Silver at Turin in 2006. She hails from Wiltshire and prior to taking up the skeleton bobsleigh was a very fine athlete with Swindon Harriers.
While the UK’s contribution to winter sports on the world stage is modest, our medal success at the London Olympics shows us that anything is possible. However, let us not forget that the gold rush on Super Saturday did not happen overnight, and with this, there is potential opportunity for Swindon.
Plans for an indoor ski centre at the North Star development would be great for participation in winter sports and benefit the local economy, but it would also give us another attribute to hang our hat on as we regenerate and communicate our message to the outside world.
I am under no illusions that this will take some time but it is the sort of boost that we need as a town. The sort of boost which could, pardon the pun, have a massive snowball effect in terms of securing funding and attracting inward investment further down the line.
Its proximity to the Oasis Centre, Swindon College and indeed the UK Research Councils means that it makes a great deal of sense to enhance the range of sporting and leisure activities on offer. Repeatedly these sorts of developments prove the catalyst to great things, helping to build a compelling case for Swindon as a place to live, work and invest.
If Ski Dubai is anything to go by, its novelty should at the very least help generate large amounts of media attention for Swindon.
However, there are further benefits to the development:
At a local level, the North Star development would do a much-needed job of joining the town up around the railway station. Each of Swindon’s developments over the last twenty years have done much to improve the image and liveability of the town, but they are too isolated from one another and need joining up. North Star must join up with the Town Centre, the Outlet Village and indeed ultimately with Old Town.
For all the reasons outlined above, I am delighted that work on the project will start before the end of the year, providing the Council approve the plans.
A detailed planning application has now been submitted, so from here on in let us hope it is more of a ‘green’ run than a ‘red’ run in terms of getting the development constructed, and regenerating this part of the Borough, bringing with it many millions of visitors and perhaps future Olympians.