Olympic athletes from Senegal will be training in Medway ahead of the 2012 Games.

Medway Council has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Senegal National Olympic and Sports Committee.

The squad will be training at Medway Park, Medway’s centre of sporting excellence in Gillingham, in the summer of 2012 before transferring into the Olympic Park ready to compete.

If successful the Senegal football team will use Gillingham Football Club’s facilities for training.

Robin Cooper, Medway Council’s director of regeneration, community and culture, said: “We are delighted that the Senegalese Olympic team have chosen Medway as their training base.

“The calibre of our facilities and our proximity to the Olympic Park makes Medway an ideal training base. I’m sure the whole community will welcome all the Olympic and Paralympic athletes that come here to train, and support them when they compete at the Games.”

The French-speaking West African nation has been competing in the Olympic Games since 1964 and has not missed a summer games since its independence.

They took 12 athletes to the Beijing Games in 2008, including long jumper Ndiss Kaba Badji who finished in seventh place. They were also represented in fencing, judo, taekwondo, wrestling, swimming and canoeing and are hoping to increase the size of the team for London.

Gillingham FC chairman Paul Scally said: “We are sure Priestfield Stadium will provide ideal facilities for Senegal’s football preparations.

“We have already talked to them about possibly staging a practice match between the Gills and Senegal, because the timing of the Games means our players will be in pre-season training. Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that they qualify.”

Medway Park and Gillingham FC’s Priestfield Stadium are two of five Medway venues that have both been approved by London 2012 as official pre-Games training venues, with Medway Park catering for 13 Olympic and eight Paralympic sports on one site.

The Paralympic Association of Barbados and Portuguese trampolining squad have also signed agreements to train at Medway Park and the neighbouring Jumpers Rebound Centre respectively.

Seydina Omar Diagne, chef de mission for the Senegal Olympic Committee said: “We have signed the agreement with Medway because it is a nice area that provides the right conditions for good Olympic preparation.
 
“All of the sporting facilities that we visited were of a high quality and everybody we met was very welcoming.
 
“I am sure that the Senegalese athletes will really enjoy their stay in Medway before moving into the Olympic village. The people of Medway will make them feel welcome and will hopefully also be their biggest supporters at the Games.”

Lord Coe, Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee said: “I was delighted to hear that the National Olympic and Sports Committee of Senegal had decided to hold a Pre-Games Training Camp in the UK to prepare their athletes for London 2012.

“To me this is a sign that our Pre-Games Programme is working well – attracting a team who has not had the opportunity to hold a training camp before. Hopefully this sporting agreement will flourish into a longer-term relationship between Senegal and Medway benefiting both parties in sport, and perhaps even in other areas of interest like education or creating cultural exchange.”

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