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Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Monday, 26 July 2010 17:22 UK
From Naval base to Olympic hopes
By Laurence Herdman
BBC South sports reporter

The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy at Osprey Quay, Portland - Pic WPNSA
This area on Portland was once part of naval base until 1998

The 2012 Olympic Sailing Regatta is the same place I spent a long period during a former life.

From the mid-eighties until 1998 I worked at the Royal Naval Air Station Portland, otherwise known as HMS Osprey, as an engineering technician in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm.

Several helicopter squadrons were based at the station.

In between changing an engine or testing a compass system, you'd often find me weapon loading Stingray torpedoes or Sea Skua missiles to Lynx helicopters.

However, government cuts meant the air station shut down soon after the closure of the dockyard just over eleven years ago.

As the navy moved out, the sailing academy moved in.

Initially, the centre occupied converted naval premises until a clubhouse was built, which was opened in June 2005 by the Princess Royal.

To avoid upsetting locals, it's important to stress that the WPNSA is located off the causeway on the approach to the isle of Portland, not in Weymouth!

Last week, I went back to Weymouth and Portland to gauge the mood among locals with just two years to go until the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.

High excitement

Crowds greet local Olympic sailings after their 2008 success at Beijing
"The majority of residents are excited at the prospect of the Games."

You would expect accommodation to be in high demand during the Games, but hotelier David Price has refused to ramp up tariffs: "If you try and cash in it will be very short-sighted.

"If you charge ten or twenty pounds extra a night you will put people off. Rumours get round and you wouldn't want to do that."

Despite some locals ambivalence, the majority of Weymouth and Portland residents are excited at the prospect of the greatest show on earth arriving in Dorset.

Dennis Spurr from the Fantastic Sausage Factory in Weymouth feels it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. "The Olympics is in your town. You want to make the most of it. You won't see it again."

Olympic village

It was originally planned to base all the athletes on a cruise ship moored in Weymouth Bay but organisers opted for land-based accommodation instead.

The Olympic village has been built on Officers Field, just off Victoria Square on the road that leads up to the top of Portland.

It's not just about the Olympics and the elite sailors, this is a facility for everybody
John Tweed, Chief Executive of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy

Curiously, I used to play football here for HMS Osprey against Dorset teams like Herrison, Piddletrenthide and Piddlehinton.

The sustainable accommodation will house sailors, coaches and officials. After the Games, a percentage of the housing will be made available as affordable housing to the local community.

Dorset Police Ch Supt David Griffiths controls security aspects during the sailing event.

He said: "The athletes are not prisoners here in the Olympic village.

"They are free to come and go as they please. Principally access to the village will be controlled so that only people with an Olympic accreditation will be allowed in, but the athletes are allowed to go anywhere they like within the UK."

A legacy

Some question marks inevitably remain over the legacy of the Olympic Games coming to Weymouth and Portland.

But John Tweed, Chief Executive of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy is confident the sailing facility will benefit the local community for years to come.

"We've got a group here from Dorchester at the moment during their activity week learning to sail. We're going to have groups out on the water later, dragon-boating and rafting later on.

"It's not just about the Olympics and the elite sailors, this is a facility for everybody."

A special feature on the 2012 Olympics at Weymouth and Portland will be shown on South Today, BBC One Tuesday 27 July at 1830.





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