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BRUM BRACED FOR OLYMPIC FEVER; The starter gun was fired on Birmingham's role in the summer Olympics yesterday. PAUL SUART reports on the looming arrival of some of the world's biggest sporting stars to the Second City.

Byline: PAUL SUART

USAIN Bolt and Tyson Gay will have the best starting point for Olympic success by warming up in Birmingham, a chief organiser of the Games has said.

The star-studded Jamaican and USA track and field squads will prepare for the sporting showpiece at training camps across the Second City.

The Jamaica team, expected to feature Bolt, the world's fastest man, Asafa Powell and Olympic 100m champion Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, will be using the University of Birmingham's facilities in Selly Oak.

Meanwhile, the USA squad, likely to involve sprinter Gay and 400m Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt will get into shape at Alexandra Stadium in Perry Barr.

Both teams are expected to arrive in Birmingham on July 15, with some athletes coming straight from the Aviva London Grand Prix which finishes the day before.

Sir Charles Allen, chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympics and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), said Birmingham was the perfect host for the famous athletics teams.

He was visiting the city yesterday to assess the economic, cultural and sporting boost the Games will bring to the region.

Sir Charles said: "Having spoken to officials from the local authority, I've no doubt Birmingham will be the ideal setting for the two most high-profile track and field teams in the world.

"I think Birmingham City Council recognises this is a big challenge and has been preparing for this since we won the bid.

"I'm comfortable that Birmingham will do itself proud and will be very welcoming to both teams."

Sir Charles called into Tyseley firm Bullfinch, which won a lucrative contract to produce gas burner systems for 8,000 Olympic and 620 Paralympic torches.

Businesses across the West Midlands have to date won pounds 529 million worth of Olympics-related tenders and projects - the fourth highest regional total in the UK.

"It's great to see jobs secured and economic growth in the region as a result of the Games," Sir Charles said.

"It is clear there is some fantastic work going on across sporting, social and economic spheres in the West Midlands to help deliver the LOCOG prom-ise to make London 2012 everyone's Games.

"I'm full of admiration at the technical ingenuity of managing director Andrew Williams and his dedicated team at Bull-finch."

Sir Charles also visited Pavillions shopping centre in the city centre to watch performers attached to Home - a dance project commissioned by Dancing for the Games, as part of International Dance Festival Birmingham (IDFB).

The Home project is based around themes of identity and belonging and has been created using the ideas, inspirations and dance material of more than 1,000 people in the West Midlands.

Short routines have been performed by dancers of all ages and abilities during IDFB and workshops have been held to encourage people to take up dancing and the arts.

Naomi Temple, project manager at Dancing for the Games, said: "The Home project has evolved from individual contributions to large group participation.

"There's such an obvious link between dance and sport as a physical art form.

''It's great we've been able to merge the two and get more people involved in dance as a legacy of the Games."

The Home project concludes with a huge final performance, involving novices and professionals, in Birmingham on Sunday. OUR SAY: PAGE 18 THE Olympic flame was being lit in Greece today ahead of its journey to and across the UK.

The lighting of the flame, traditionally in the ancient birthplace of the Games, will be aired live on a big screen in Victoria Square.

It will be brought over to Britain next Thursday for the start of an epic procession which will start from Land's End in Cornwall and last for 70 days.

In the region of 8,000 people will carry the torch a total of 8,000 miles as it meanders across the UK taking in National Heritage Sites, scenic locations and venues with sporting significance.

It first reaches the West Midlands (Worcester) on May 24 but does not enter Birmingham until June 30.

The relay will bring the Olympics to within a one-hour journey of 95 per cent of the UK population in a universal bid to get as many people as possible involved and engaged.

Concert will be golden JAMAICA'S Olympic stars will be among the crowds at a Birmingham pop concert marking the Caribbean country's 50 years of independence.

Sprint ace Usain Bolt will swing to the sounds of Brummie pop stars Jamelia and Jaki Graham during the Cultural Extravaganza Concert at Symphony Hall on July 25.

Jaki joined up with Jamaican music stars Skibu and Carlton Curtis yesterday to promote the event.

The concert is being hosted by the Association of Jamaican Nationals (AJN), Birmingham City Council, The Jamaican High Commission and The Jamaican Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA).

Beverly Lindsay OBE, chairman of the AJN, said: "We will bring all the richness and vibrancy of Jamaican culture to the Symphony Hall to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Jamaica's Independence and to celebrate our athletes as they head for gold in the Games."

Proceeds from the concert will go towards the JAAA for sports development in Jamaica.

BIRMINGHAM schoolchildren entered into the Olympic spirit with their very own torch relay.

A dozen pupils from Grestone Primary in Handsworth Wood took part in yesterday's event with hundreds more youngsters recreating the atmosphere of the Olympic Stadium in the school playground. The relay started at Somerset Road Gurdwara, where the school was originally built, and took in Handsworth Wood Road, Friary Road and Grestone Avenue.

It then finished back at the school where music was played out over a PA system to recreate the drama and excitement of the real thing.

The event was held as part of the Schoolympics initiative in which schools host their own opening ceremony and each adopts an Olympic country.

Grestone has adopted Brazil, whose flag was raised during the festivities.

CAPTION(S):

On song: Soul star Jaki Graham will join Jamaican stars in Jamaica's 50th cultural extravaganza concert. Proud: (from left) Andrew Williams, Sir Charles Allen and Dave Moorcroft.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
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Date:May 10, 2012
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