THE man who helped oversee the Olympics in Essex has unveiled ambitious plans to help the county to carry on the spirit of the Games and get more active.
Gary Sullivan, who led the Essex Olympic Strategic Board, has been appointed chairman of Active Essex, which aims to encourage residents to get fit and take a greater interest in sport.
Mr Sullivan plans to pull out the stops to help people get healthier and take greater advantage of multi-million-pound sporting facilities such as the Basildon Sporting Village, Southend Leisure, Tennis and Swimming Centre at Garon Park and the Olympic mountain biking track at Hadleigh Farm.
Attracting national and international sporting competitions to the venues will be a top priority for the partnership to draw in sports fans, inspire residents and help boost trade.
Mr Sullivan, chairman of Westcliff-based security company Willson James, said: “I’ve been involved in Essex for some time and I just want to carry on improving and building on the success of the Olympics and its legacy to make sure we are at the top of the tree when it comes to having a healthy and happy community.
“Making sites such as Hadleigh Farm the venue of choice for national and global competitions is a very important part of the plans ahead. Basildon Sporting Village is already hosting lots of competitions which are having a positive impact, not just on local businesses, but schools as well.”
About 40,000 spectators descended on Hadleigh last August to watch as the world’s best mountain bikers took to the challenging track at Hadleigh Farm.
Essex Council Council is currently in the process of adapting the track for public use as part their legacy plans for the site.
Mr Sullivan, who was previously chairman of the Thames Gateway south Essex regeneration project said: “We want to carry on the Olympic spirit and inspire the next generation of champions, so it’s all about finding innovative ways of getting people active, for example encouraging people to take up some of the lesser main stream sports.
“The Olympics really did a brilliant job in showcasing Essex at its best and spurred a lot of people to take on new sports such as cycling, so we want to build on that. Making Essex a safer place for cyclists will be a key focus for us.”
Plans are in the pipeline to create a biking track linking Mucking Flats in Thurrock, through Benfleet downs and Hadleigh Country Park all the way to Southend to enable cyclists to see the best of south Essex’s countryside.
Encouraging families to explore the county’s top beauty hotspots is also high on the agenda, to help get people back into nature, by hiking, cycling, and riding in country parks across Essex.
Mr Sullivan added: “We’re so blessed to have these beautiful open spaces and some of the best views along the Thames, so we are looking at improving cycling routes from Thurrock all the way to Southend.
“With such fantastic facilities available now it’s really about getting the community, and those outside Essex as well, to embrace what’s on offer and enjoy getting out and about to explore the beautiful countryside.”
As chairman of the Olympic board, Mr Sullivan helped oversee the delivery of several high-profile events such as Sparks Will Fly, the Olympic Torch Relay and the Essex Ambassadors volunteer programme.
Stephen Castle, Essex county county councillor respomsible for education,, lifelong learning and the 2012 Games, said: “I am delighted to welcome Gary into his new role.
“I have no doubt he will work together with the Active Essex team to ensure we make the most of any opportunities which come our way as we inspire the next generation of athletes and encourage more physical fitness throughout the county.”