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Ireland and France are sapping some of the Olympics-related economic gains from London and other UK regions, by luring teams from across the globe for pre-games training camps.
The UK government has said this year's Olympics would bring a much-needed economic boost to the country. However, neighbouring countries are cashing in before the event, with Olympic teams paying to use their facilities, accommodation and hospitality.
Swimmers from 13 countries have signed up to train at Ireland's national aquatic centre and Pas-de-Calais, in northern France, will host training delegations from countries including Brazil, Germany, Australia and Japan. "The Olympics business is providing a major boost to the aquatic centre and the local community. Teams stay in hotels and use local facilities," said David Conway, director of operations at the aquatic centre in Dublin.
Recently, the US synchronised swimming team arrived in Ireland for pre-games training - the latest squad to choose Dublin over a UK venue. Dublin beat competition from Sheffield and at least one other UK location to host the US team, said Gigi Grizanti, co-ordinator of the US team. "Synchro teams need privacy and pool time for training and there simply wasn't enough of that available in London. Ireland also offered a world-class facility and a big welcome," Ms Grizanti told the Financial Times.
A UK government official said: "In an ideal world, obviously we'd want [the US synchronised swimming team] here."
Pas-de-Calais, which is 21 miles from the English coast and an hour's train ride away, is also exploiting its proximity to London. "Our region, because of its geographical position, has everything to gain in terms of economic spin-offs before, during and after the event," said Dominique Dupilet, head of the local council for Pas-de-Calais.
Soon after losing the games to London in 2005, France set its sights on attracting Olympic teams to spend money training in the north of the country. The French government has invested more than EUR115m in upgrading sports facilities - many of which were already in place after the bid by Lille, the region's capital, to host the 2004 Olympics.
"I think what people did underestimate is that there is a lot of competition out there to bring teams in [to the UK]," said Gary Clifton, the programme manager for 2012 and big events at Sheffield council. "Some we've won and some we've not. That's just the competitive nature of this business".
Sheffield is hosting a handful of training camps, including the Brazilian boxing and judo teams, the Canadian synchronised swimming team and the Russian rhythmic gymnastics team. Mr Clifton said the training camps would generate about GBP500,000 for Sheffield. But he said the economic benefits from the Olympics were much wider, providing an GBP18m boost to the city over three years, because the games have drawn other sporting events to the region.
London's organising committee (Locog) said that a large proportion of teams will undertake their final Olympic preparations in the UK, with 128 teams signed up. Australia's athletics squad is among the teams coming to south-east England before the event. "We've done everything we can to encourage as many [teams] as possible to be based here during the games," Locog said.
Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Locog vetted a list of sporting venues across the UK and deemed 600 facilities up to Olympic standard. Locog has tried to entice teams to the UK by offering a GBP25,000 grant towards training costs, particularly aimed at smaller countries, but it would not comment on how many applications it had received.
"There will be a boost for those regions where teams are coming in," said the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. However, the government has said it was difficult to quantify the economic benefits of hosting a training camp.