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Boxing Legend to Highlight Wigan’s Inclusive Fitness Success
Wednesday 24th August, 2005

On Friday 2nd September, boxing hero and patron of the Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) Michael Watson MBE, will unveil Robin Park Sports Centre and Arena as an official IFI facility. The former Commonwealth Middleweight Champion will be special guest for an afternoon of sports activities designed to showcase inclusive sport at its best. Hindley Pool and Sports Centre is also set to receive the accreditation, ensuring Wigan will be the first borough in the UK to receive dual-site recognition from the IFI.

The IFI is a Sport England funded project that supports facilities across the county to make improvements in access, fitness equipment, staff training and sports development. The IFI aims to make fitness suites and facilities more freely available to people with disabilities.

Michael Watson, who was brain-damaged following his WBO Championship bout with Chris Eubank, is a true advocate of what can be achieved through physical activity. His remarkable comeback, highlighted by his completion of the London Marathon in 2003 (pictured), is an example of how important it is that sport and health facilities are made accessible to all.

“The Trust has been working hard to ensure that our sports facilities are easily accessible and have the correct equipment to allow people of all abilities to enjoy physical activity,” says Rodney Hill, Chief Executive of Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT). “The Inclusive Fitness Initiative is a fantastic campaign and reflects our vision Getting Wigan Active which we hope will improve the physical and mental welfare of people across Wigan Borough. The huge strides taken at Robin Park and Hindley should go some way towards achieving this aim and anyone who knows the Michael Watson story will be inspired by his determination and self-belief.”

Some of the improvements carried out by WLCT that have helped lead to the IFI accreditation include:

  • £70k spent to transform the cricket hall at Robin Park into a multi-games hall (used regularly by the disabilities sports club).
  • £20k spent on improving access to Robin Park and to provide specialist equipment for gym users with disabilities.
  • £110k investment at Hindley Pool to transform it into a specialist facility for swimmers with disabilities.
  • Extra training for staff in Disabilty Equity and fitness instructors being trained to deliver safe and appropriate exercise programmes.
  • A brand new inclusive fitness suite at Hindley Sports Centre costing £210k including improved access and specialist equipment.

As well as improving the profile of Robin Park and Hindley Sport Centres, the IFI recognition will also lead to the Trust employing Wigan Borough’s first ever ‘activator’. One of the key roles of the ‘activator’ is to work in the community to encourage people with disabilities to take part in sport and physical activity.

“The huge improvements made at Robin Park and Hindley mean that more and more disabled users from across the borough and beyond will have the opportunity to use these facilities and keep themselves fit and healthy,” says Darren Birch, Regional Manager for the English Federation of Disability Sports (EFDS), who thinks the accreditation will have a positive effect on disabled sports in the area. “With the Paralympics coming to London in 2012 disability sports are now getting greater recognition. The new improved facilities could result in some athletes from the Wigan Borough competing at the London Games.”

In addition to the accreditation ceremony, Michael Watson, Councillor Brian Jarvis the Mayor of Wigan, WLCT’s Board and other invited attendees at Robin Park on September 2nd, will have the opportunity to witness some of the beneficiaries of the improvement work in action. From 11am to 2.30pm athletes with disabilities will be exhibiting their skills in a multitude of sports including wheelchair tennis, basketball and athletics. The official launch takes place at 11.45am.

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