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Will the Commonwealth Games come to Cardiff?

Cardiff bids for Games half a century after hosting Empire Games.

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It is 55 years since the world watched athletes march onto the field at Cardiff Arms Park for the opening ceremony of an event which Cardiff Council is hoping to recreate.

The sixth Empire Games, now the Commonwealth Games, were hosted in Cardiff in 1958. Over 1,000 athletes competed from 35 nations, in 94 events. Today, more than 5,000 competitors take part from 72 different countries and Cardiff Council is planning a bid for the 2026 Games.

The bid has raised questions over the potentially damaging costs of holding the world’s third largest sporting event.

During the past few weeks, proposed closures of Splott Pool and Pontcanna Riding Club, have dominated headlines as public concern over council cuts to community sporting facilities mounted.

A Cardiff bid for the Commonwealth Games has been viewed as bitterly ironic, considering the cost of the £1.5m bid alone could save many of these services. The Games has been given a price tag of £530 million, based on figures from the 2014 Glasgow Games.

Leader of Plaid Cymru, Councillor Neil McEvoy, said: “This decision borders on criminal.  It is nothing more than an ill-advised PR stunt which makes the brutal cuts seem unnecessary.”

“This council hasn’t got its priorities right.  One the one hand it is closing down basic facilities and trampling on all that’s good about grassroots sport, whilst at the same time trying to reach for the stars.”

Cardiff council’s tight budget means the subsidies for many adult sports have been reduced, along with the closure of a number of facilities.

Cardiff-born Paralympic icon, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson, said: “The cuts to sport in Cardiff are really such a shame and very disappointing.  Cardiff will feel the impact of this massive dent 10 years down the line, but if the money isn’t there it’s very difficult.”

“This Commonwealth bid will benefit Cardiff by putting it on the International map and encouraging more kids to go and enjoy sport.”

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Many comparisons can be drawn between Cardiff in 1958 and 2012. Historian Daryl Leeworthy, said: “Councils were not in a position to spend a lot of money so local fundraising committies ran events to raise money.”

Mr Leeworthy added: “The Empire Pool is best remembered.”

In 1958, Wales was the smallest nation ever to host the games. The event was remembered for protests surrounding apartheid, as well as the official proclamation of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales. But more importantly the games gave a sense of confidence to Wales who secured a best-ever 11th place finish.
Cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport in Cardiff, Councillor Huw Thomas, said: “The Empire Games in 1958 did a lot for Cardiff. People are asking questions about the financial commitment but we are driven by the economic benefits and regeneration possibilities.”

Manchester hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games, with great success in inner-city regeneration. All of the venues are still being used, including the main stadium which hosts Manchester City Football Club.

Leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Sir Richard Leese, said: “The 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games left us with a legacy of first class sporting facilities catering to the community and elite athletes. It created enormous pride throughout Manchester and across the region. It had a very positive impact on the city”

The Cardiff proposal has promised to “develop a bid to host the Commonwealth Games which in itself delivers immediate and lasting benefits.”

The council hopes it will provide more tourism and sports participation for Cardiff than the London Olympics.

Welsh Paralmypic cyclist, Mark Colbourne, who won gold in the 2012 Paralympics, said: “I am sure the bid will encourage more people to take up sports in Wales and build on the legacy of London 2012.”


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Eating Disorders Awareness Week

BEAT Cymru is encouraging people in Cardiff to wear silly socks to help raise funds as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The national campaign is taking place this week to improve the understanding of serious mental illnesses and challenge the damaging stereotypes associated with anorexia and bulimia.

 

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The number of people who suffer from eating disorders in Wales is estimated at more than 50,000 and this number is increasing with around 1,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
Despite such high figures, there is no specialist in-patient unit in Cardiff to provide feeding clinics and concentrated psychological treatment for severe cases. Patients from South Wales must travel to Marlborough in Wiltshire to receive such treatment.

Natalie McCulloch, 24, who lives in Cardiff, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and now works hard to overcome her anorexia and regain a normal weight and eating habits. She said: “I definitely think there needs to be serious service development in Cardiff for eating disorder services. Having a specialist unit in Wales is extremely necessary and something I really hope will develop soon, there certainly is a call for such.

“Just seeing the amount of Welsh people (in fact Cardiff people) who ended up in the specialist unit with me in England says a lot.

“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. I only got through this because of my amazing friends and family.”

Beat Cymru is carrying out a campaign to increase understanding during Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The organisation will be holding a sock puppet workshop on February 14 at Cardiff University Students Union to raise awareness and help support people suffering from eating disorders.

Manon Haf Lewis, 23, from Carmarthen spent one and a half years of her life at the specialist treatment centre in Marlborough. After being diagnosed with anaorexia at 14, she is now an ambassador for Beat Cymru and hopes to raise awareness in schools and the NHS about the realities and misconceptions surrounding anorexia. Ms Lewis lost a friend to anorexia because she did not receive the treatment she desperately needed.

“I don’t want what happened to my friend to happen to anyone else. I have only got through this because of my amazing friends and family.”

“It is a massive jump for people leaving the in-patient unit in Marlborough because they are used to receiving one-to-one support 24 hours a day. In England they have day centres to help the transition, but there is nothing like that in Wales.”

Adriana Copland, South Wales project officer for Beat Cymru, said: “It is vital facilities and support are developed to enable sufferers to be treated as close to home as possible and not be referred to services outside of Wales.

“This distance can make the situation even more upsetting and traumatic for families who are already going through a tough time. There is a real gap in services in Wales for severe cases.”

Student Run Self Help (SRSH) Cardiff is also raising awareness by hosting a Mind Your Head gig at the North Star on February 12 and organising a two-day charity clothes shop.
A spokesperson for SRSH Cardiff said: “One of the main problems is accessing even primary care as vulnerable patients need to go through a lot of hoop jumping in order to be assessed and referred to a specialist.

“The lack of services in Wales for severe anorexia cases also creates problems for workers who have to travel to Wiltshire to carry out regular checks and treatments.”


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Richard Parks flies home for the Six Nations

The superhuman challenge of skiing solo from the coastline of Antarctica to the South Pole in 40 days has proved too great for former Welsh international rugby hero, Richard Parks.

The Pontypridd born explorer has already made history by climbing the highest peak on each continent and travelling to all three poles within just seven months.  This record-breaking 737 challenge was clearly not enough to satisfy the ex-rugby union star.


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The Antarctic expedition was the second time Parks has faced the hostile weather conditions and extreme sastrugi (irregular snow ridges) near the South Pole.  He was forced to abandon the solo ski mission after 39 intense days because of time constraints and unforgiving conditions.

“Although I am gutted, I am at peace because I know I have done everything in my control and it is the right decision.  Of course I am bitterly disappointed because of all the time, effort, money and preparation my team and I have put into the expedition.”

Parks has revealed he was close to starvation for 40 days and has lost between 13 and 15kg, which equates to around two-and-a-half stone.  He also suffered cold damage to his face when he removed his facemask in the -27C conditions.

He said: “I looked in the mirror for the first time at myself and it blew my mind.  I didn’t look like myself.”

“I was pushing my body mentally and physically to the absolute limit during this expedition and I am now the weakest and lightest I have ever been.  My body is incredibly run down and I have lost a significant amount of body weight.”

Richard was forced to retire from professional rugby in May 2009 because of a career ending shoulder injury.  The former flanker made a name for himself as prolific tackler, earning caps against South Africa, Fiji, Scotland and Ireland.  In his 13 years as a professional player, Richard was a crucial member of the Newport Gwent Dragons and represented the Barbarians and Wales Sevens during the World Cup.

The life-changing injury compelled Richard to reassess his personal goals.  Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ book: ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’, inspired him to design the pioneering 737 Challenge.  At this point, Richard had never even set foot on a mountain.  The gruelling challenge began in Cardiff Bay in December 2010 and Richard made history by completing this world first in 6 months, 11 days, 7 hours and 53 minutes.

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Richard was able to keep his loved ones and loyal followers regularly updated during his latest mission using his Antarctica blog.  He stressed how using this technology in the hostile environment was one of the biggest challenges he had to face.  Richard was overwhelmed with the supportive messages he received from people in Wales.

“To receive so many messages of support makes such a difference.  I am so grateful and proud to be Welsh and I am truly humbled by all the support.”

Richard remains positive and philosophical about the success of the expedition.

“As a younger athlete I thought success was black and white, but as I’ve got older I now realise there are many shades of grey in-between.  This type of challenge is not for everyone, but I am privileged and grateful to come back to Antarctica.”

This expedition has formed a crucial element of the research and development for his next secret world first project, which is planned for 2014.  The challenges Richard continues to set for himself act as a beacon of hope for anyone who has ever suffered a major set back.

Richard spent some time recuperating in Punta Arenas, Chile, but he has flown back to Wales in time for the Six Nations.