On a breezy Sunday morning in Dorset, one of Britain's key Olympic venues is bustling with activity. But in this case, it's not thronged with ant-like construction workers desperately trying to meet the looming 2012 deadline. Instead, the waters of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, selected to host the London Olympiad's sailing events, are full of flapping sails and colourful craft of every description.
Spend any amount of time here and you'll find yourself talking about the Games. In Weymouth, 2012 Olympic fever is underway already. While the town's history as a Georgian pleasure spot is still visible in the architecture that graces the town's impressive esplanade, in recent years Weymouth's fortunes have ebbed and flowed. So the decision to make Weymouth and Portland the location for the 2012 sailing events has given a boost to the area's fortunes.
Weymouth and Portland (the latter a six-mile-long island connected to Weymouth by a road bridge) now finds itself in truly heady company. Last year it was rated the fourth best up-and-coming travel destination in the world by the travel website TripAdvisor. The Olympic venue was in eclectic company: the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal positions went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany; Dangriga in Belize; and Rosario in Argentina. Nevertheless, a presence on any global emerging destinations list represents quite a coup.
It's easy to see what's bringing the crowds in. Today's Weymouth is a savvy mixture of the historical and the modern, epitomised by my home for the weekend, B+B Weymouth. This smart offering is a Grade II-listed Georgian seafront building with modern, airy rooms.
I ask Jean, the manager, where I should head for my first night in town. He dispatches me to the 17th-century Old Harbour, the historical focal point of the town, where I find a clutch of convivial drinking options. I settle down for a couple of pints at the packed Kings Arms, where the cheerful mood is a compelling argument for the regenerative benefits of a successful Olympic bid.
Still, the water is the main draw for most people, whether it's the town's charming bucket-and-spade beach, or the watersports facilities based at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA).The WPNSA is set to be the focal point in 2012 and is one of the main reasons why Weymouth was chosen: the centre opened in 2000, providing world-class sailing facilities for Weymouth before the Olympic bid was even launched.
Source: The Independent