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Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 12:01 UK

Wales plans Olympics celebration

Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke took the first Team GB gold at Beijing

A celebration is being planned to honour Welsh athletes who are part of Team GB in the Beijing Olympics.

While the team will have a Buckingham Palace reception on their return, First Minister Rhodri Morgan also plans to meet Welsh competitors in Cardiff.

Welsh athletes have now won four medals, with cyclist Geraint Thomas adding gold in Monday's team pursuit.

He joins fellow gold medallist cyclist Nicole Cooke, a gold for rower Tom James, and a silver for rower Tom Lucy.

The assembly government said full details of the Welsh reception would be announced shortly.

Wales Sports Minister Alun Ffred Jones told BBC Radio Wales that both he and Mr Morgan will be attending the Cardiff ceremony.

We should also remember though we celebrate gold medals and so on we should also remember that just to reach the Olympics has required a great deal of hard work and sweat
Wales Sports Minister Alun Ffred Jones
"Obviously I can't compete with the Queen," said Mr Jones, referring to the Buckingham Palace reception.

"But I know that the First Minister Rhodri Morgan has made arrangements at the end of the month to meet the athletes - those who have succeeded and all the members who have competed - and I hope to be part of that ceremony.

"And I think we should also remember though we celebrate gold medals and so on we should also remember that just to reach the Olympics has required a great deal of hard work and sweat."

There were Olympic medals in rowing for Tom James, 24, from Coedpoeth, Wrexham, and the youngest member of the Team GB rowing squad, Tom Lucy, 20, who trained at Monmouth School.

James won gold in the coxless four boat crew, while Lucy helped the eight-man boat to a silver.

Tom James
Rower Tom James became the second Welsh athlete to taken Beijing gold

Their medals added to the gold of Nicole Cooke, from Wick, Vale of Glamorgan, in the women's road race on the games' first weekend.

The gold for Geraint Thomas, of Cardiff, made Beijing the most successful games for Welsh athletes for 88 years.

Mr Jones paid tribute to the achievements of the Welsh competitors and their UK team mates.

He acknowledged that foundations for the 2008 success were supported by lottery funding but said there were structures in place in Wales to support sportsmen and women, and to develop youngsters.

Mr Jones said: "And that is the important thing - to get as many people involved to begin with and from there you also have to support the best.

"Sometimes people would say we want to pursue excellence at one end and also to get as many people involved at the other end, and we shouldn't regard them as competing goals.

"But in fact there is a tension I think - you have to be careful, I suppose, where you place the balance."

Mr Jones also said it was "ironic" that the 2012 London Olympics was "taking money away certainly from cultural activities but also perhaps from grassroots sporting activities to develop the pitches and facilities that you need in order to train"

He added: "Much of this success of course is in the type of sports where you need facilities of a world class nature, otherwise you simply can't do them."




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