GWENT is already feeling the effects of the Olympics legacy, with local sports clubs inundated with queries from people wanting to get involved.

The city’s Wales National Velodrome has received 500 calls since the start of London 2012 – three times more than usual – from people wanting to use the facility where gold medal winners Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton trained ahead of the Games.

Newport-based Gwent Handball Club has more than doubled its membership in the past two weeks increasing from 50 to 122, while City of Newport Archers and Abergavenny’s the Vale and Usk Riding Club are also reporting a surge in interest.

Councillor Debbie Wilcox, Newport’s cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “The Olympics is having a positive effect on the whole country and nowhere more is that being felt than in Newport.

“One of the legacies of the Games is increasing interest in sport and we have certainly seen a rise in interest for track cycling with people keen to followin their heroes’ tracks and give cycling on the Velodrome a try.

“There is immense pride in Newport for being such an integral part of the success of Team GB cyclists and it has helped to cement our reputation as a centre of excellence for track cycling.” The Velodrome is currently home to the Australian paralympic teamwhoare training there, and USA and Great Britain paralympians are also set to visit.

Meanwhile local residents have flocked to make the most of taster sessions on the 250m circuit. Chairman of Abergavenny’s Vale and Usk Riding Club, Nikki Watson, said calls had flooded in to the club after Team GB struck gold in show jumping and dressage. She said: “All of us had been feeling the effects of the bad weather.

But the Olympic success of our equestrian team has brought back people’s enthusiasm again.”

Steve Smyth of City of Newport Archers said: “With the weather being unkind, we’ve been backlogged, but archery itself has definitely picked up since the Olympics began.

COMMENT: Legacy has to endure

THERE have been many words written and spoken – some of them far fromcomplimentary – about the legacy of London 2012.

But there is evidence already of the Olympics’ positive impact, particularly in inspiring young people to get involved with sport.

Today we report how Newport’s Wales National Velodrome has received three times its normal level of enquiries frompeople interested in taking up cycling since the Olympics.

And there has been a surge of interest in other activities varying from handball to archery.

The Velodrome, of course, played a key role in Team GB’s gold medal performances in London as it hosted our cyclists’ final preparations – including Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott. The fact that clubs are being inundated with people interested in taking up Olympic sports is perhaps no surprise given that the Games are still so fresh in everyone’s memories. The challenge for sporting organisations is to keep interest levels high a month, or six months, or a year from now.

The performances of Team GBathletes, along with the likes of Usain Bolt, were truly inspirational and have sparked immediate interest in sport frommany people.

Maintaining that interest to help create a fitter, healthier nation is a major challenge for everyone involved in ensuring London 2012 has a worthwhile legacy.