Birmingham is officially the place to be – just ask the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt.
Bolt, the first man to retain both the 100m and 200m Olympic titles at consecutive Games, was quick to lavish praise on Birmingham, where he was based with the Jamaican track and field team for their training base ahead of the Olympic Games.
He was joined in thanking the people of Birmingham by fellow countrymen Yohan Blake and Warren Weir – who picked up the silver and bronze respectively in the 200m – making it a clean sweep for Jamaica on the podium.
Speaking after the race, Usain Bolt commented: “The Birmingham people, when we were at camp, they were extremely great to us. They showed us a lot of love, and thank you guys – you guys helped us come out here and do our best.”
The name check was watched by almost 11 million people and went viral on Twitter, with Birmingham trending nationally. It placed Birmingham firmly in the spotlight – showcasing a UK location outside London.
Staying at The University of Birmingham – which offered bespoke seven-foot beds and mattresses for the tallest athletes, and a specialist chef to cater for Jamaican tastes – the team were welcomed by the entire city. Birmingham has the largest Jamaican community outside of London. As their visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence, a host of celebrations took place including a five-day ‘Jamaica in the Square’ cultural extravaganza and an athletes’ farewell concert at the Symphony Hall.
The team also enjoyed a number of Birmingham’s attractions, and twice visited Cineworld on Broad Street, as well as national treasures Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.
Six of the 100m finalists – and all three medallists – trained in Birmingham ahead of the Games, as the city also hosted the US track and field team’s training camp.
Ian Taylor, Commercial Director at Marketing Birmingham – which operates Visit Birmingham, the city’s leisure tourism programme – said: “The amazing comments about Birmingham from Bolt, Blake and Weir have already made a huge impact in raising the profile of the city, and are credit to everyone who supported the team during their stay here. Their praise has created headlines and led to Birmingham trending on Twitter, demonstrating that the impact of the Games is having a really positive effect on the rest of the UK beyond London.
“We’re working hard to ensure that Birmingham makes the most of the athletes’ remarks. Birmingham already welcomes 32.8 million visitors each year, and this boost to the city’s reputation for sporting excellence and facilities must create a legacy for years to come.”
To watch Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir talking about Birmingham, visit here
The city’s next major sporting event is the Aviva Birmingham GrandPrix Athletics on 26 August, which will welcome a number of Olympic heroes back to Birmingham.