Countdown to 'magic' of the 2012 Olympics; Sports Minister kick-starts build-up on Tyneside.
TYNESIDE'S countdown to the Olympics is officially on.
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson was in the region to kick-start the build-up to the big event, which is now just 200 days away.
The minister said he believed the Olympics could provide an inspiration for youngsters across the region.
"During the 2012 Olympics there will be one moment of magic, one feat which everyone will remember, they will remember exactly where they were when they were watching it," he said.
"These games, the first in Britain since 1948, will inspire young athletes to follow in the footsteps of the Olympic heroes."
Mr Robertson also praised the region's big sporting names such as Newcastle United, Sunderland FC and Durham Cricket Club for the outreach work they perform in the community.
He was visiting the cricket club's Riverside complex yesterday, as well as Deerness Gymnastics Academy at Ushaw Moor, Durham. Deerness Leisure Centre was closed last year by Durham County Council, but the Gymnastics Academy took over the running of the centre.
The club recently received more than pounds 6,000 from the Nat West Community Force after their project received the most votes from the public in their area. The funds will help Deerness Gymnastics Academy to develop and support the baby, toddler and preschool gymnastics classes, making the classes accessible to parents, carers and toddlers throughout the area.
Mr Robertson said he accepted cut backs have forced many local authorities such as Durham to close leisure centres, but he said community groups such as the Deerness supporters had to be commended for refusing to allow the club to die.
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson meeting children in the education centre at Durham County Cricket Ground