PARALYMPIC hero Danny Crates was guest of honour as the building of Basildon’s £38million sporting village began.
The first spade of earth was turned yesterday on the main construction site for the sporting village in Gloucester Park, Basildon.
Plans include a 50m Olympic swimming pool – the first of its kind in Essex – a gymnastics centre, sports hall, fitness centre and a multi-purpose studio.
Danny, 34, who won a gold medal in the 800m at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, was guest of honour.
He said: “The facilities are going to be second to none.
“It will be a fantastic place to train, both for local athletes hoping to compete in the 2012 Olympics and ordinary people who maybe just want to get in shape for their summer bikinis.”
Steven Horgan, Basildon Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, said: “Hopefully the building work starting today will silence once and for all any doubts the project was going to go ahead.
“When this is finished we will have the best sporting facilities in Essex, possibly the whole of the South East.”
Pupils from Year 6 at Janet Duke Primary School, in Laindon, and James Hornsby School, also buried a time capsule in the building site to mark the occasion.
Deputy headteacher Fiona Lothian said: “The children drew and painted pictures depicting football, swimming and other sports, which we put in the capsule.
“It’s great for the children to know when the capsule is dug up in 100 years’ time or whenever, their work will be seen by a new generation of people.”
Last month, the Echo revealed how preparatory groundwork was being laid for the huge building scheme, which will be carried out by consortium Community Solutions for Leisure.
The main car park will be closed while building work is ongoing, but visitors can use the temporary car park to reach the athletics tracks, temporary changing rooms, synthetic turf pitch and netball courts.
People can get to the parking area from the Cranes Farm Road entrance to Gloucester Park.
The footpath to the athletics track, from the underpass in Upper Mayne, will also be closed, but the footpath on the east side of the athletics track will remain open. Completion date for the centre is April 2011.