Still blazing a trail after five decades
IT may be long in the tooth as it celebrates its birthday, but at 50 years old a city athletics track is looking better than ever.
While all the talk this year will be of the legacy left behind after the London 2012 Games - athletes, children and dignitaries came together yesterday to appreciate the legacy enjoyed by the creation of the Embankment Athletics Track in 1962.
Pupils from Fulbridge Primary School were invited to compete in a selection of athletics events at the behest of Councillor Charles Swift, who was mayor when the track originally opened some 50 years ago.
He said: “The opening in 1962 was a trail-blazing event as no other bespoke athletics facility existed in this area at that time.
“I was privileged to be here 50 years ago and it feels so much better standing here today and having these incredible facilities which are so rich in history.”
A lot has changed at the track since 1962, the most important advancement being the replacement of the cinder ash track with a synthetic one in 1987.
More recently, the old pavilion was replaced in 2004 and in the last 18 months has been extended to provide space for other sports and programmes, such as table tennis, hand-cycling and stroke rehabilitation.
The track is now run by culture and leisure trust Vivacity having been handed over by Peterborough City Council in 2010, but the council has re-affirmed its commitment to the track by pledging £500,000 to re-surface the running track which has become worn over time.
The central location of the track makes it popular with runners across the city, with Peterborough Athletics Club (PAC) and Nene Valley Harriers the main clubs to make regular use of the facilities.
PAC coaches Roy Thickpenny and Maureen Torr say the introduction of the synthetic track in 1987 has improved the development of local athletes, with PAC alumni such as Kelly Sotherton and Louise Hazel going on to international success.
John Torr, who has been associated with the club for 35 years and is now the starter, said: “When I first ran here with the Watford Harriers this was just a dirt track.
“But since it became an all-weather track we’ve made more internationals, simply because it gives you more of an opportunity to develop young athletes.”
Mr Torr said there has been greater interest shown in track and field events in recent months as Olympic fever grows - and he expects it to explode once the games get underway this summer.
Students from Fulbridge School were all given medals for taking part in the events at the track, with headteacher Iain Erskine, himself a former PAC athlete, re-iterating how important sport is to young people.
He said: “As well as providing the statutory PE curriculum, we do a lot of clubs outside of that for anything from basketball to hockey, to football and netball.
“I’m a former secondary PE teacher so I think providing such opportunities in school is very important.”
Among the dignitaries marking the 50th birthday of the Embankment was Mayor of Peterborough Councillor Paula Thacker, council leader Marco Cereste and Vivacity chief executive Kevin Tighe.
Mr Tighe said: “Sport over the next six months will be very much in the forefront of the public’s mind with the Olympics and Paralympic Games starting in July, so it is timely that the anniversary of this great facility has fallen within the Olympic year.”
ON TRACK: Fulbridge Primary School pupils take part in an event to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Embankment Athletics Track. METP-11-05-12DL050 Pictures: DAVID LOWNDES
FLYING THE FLAG: Council leader Marco Cereste, Mayor Cllr Paula Thacker, Cllr Charles Swift, Kevin Tighe and pupil Demi New. METP-11-05-12DL038