Olympics - better than we’d even dreamed

AFTER seven years of anticipation and preparation, the London 2012 Olympic Games opened with a ceremony described by the Argus and countless other observers as The Greatest Show On Earth.

And then came the sport. The world, in the form of competitors and spectators, descended on London and enjoyed a feast of sporting entertainment destined to live long in the memory.

Countless column inches and endless hours of radio and TV broadcasting had built up the chances of Team GB – and how they delivered.

In the velodrome, on the rowing lake, in the athletics stadium, everywhere one turned, there were gold, silver and bronze performances to be proud of by British athletes, many of whom the majority of us had never heard of before.

Perhaps the greatest day of all however was on the track, when in less than an hour heptathlete Jessica Ennis, 10,000-metre runner Mo Farah, and least likely of all, long jumper Greg Rutherford won gold medals.

There was the imperious Usain Bolt doing another Olympic 100- 200 metre double, and so many other great performances.

Gwent stars got in on the act, too, notably boxer Fred Evans, of Newport’s St Joseph’s club, who earned a silver medal in the welterweight category on the Games’ final afternoon.

Newport also had a significant part to play in the Olympic preparations that once again delivered several gold medals in cycling.

Shortly before the Games began, Team GB cyclists took over the Velodrome at Newport’s International Sports Village for a final training camp.

Eventual gold medallists Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Jason Kenny and others thrilled those lucky enough to get the time and a ticket to attend these training sessions as spectators.

The cyclists themselves acknowledged Newport’s role in their success, as they had when achieving success in Beijing in 2008, and at one session Pendleton came over to personally thank – on her and her teammates’ behalf – those who had turned up. Team GB Paralympic cyclists also came to Newport for final training sessions and as the Paralympics began late in August, the gold rush began again.

The month ended with gold for a Gwent competitor, Tredegar’s Mark Colbourne, who followed up a silver medal in the men’s individual 1km time trial with victory 24 hours later in the C1 3km individual pursuit, breaking the world record twice in the process.

He dedicated his victory – in front of a packed velodrome crowd including proud mum Margaret and daughter Jessica – to his father Cecil, who had died six months previously.


July 2:

TWENTY sites had been identified as potential homes for the medieval Newport ship, with one being along the Usk riverfront not far from where the 15th Century remains were found in 2002.

Work has been going on for almost a decade to conserve the ship’s remains, prior to these being rebuilt, and a study was underway to find a location to house it.

A national project of international significance, the sites have been scored against a range of criteria, and a report on these also described potential funding strategies.

But wherever the ship is eventually housed, it is likely to be several more years before the public gets a look at it, as preservation work continues in the city.

July 4:

A HEROIN addict who murdered actor Gary Suller in his own home, trussing him up and repeatedly battering him, was jailed for life.

Barry Bowyer, 38, was told he must serve at least 30 years for murdering love rival Mr Suller, 45, at the latter’s Cwmbran home in September 2011.

Cardiff Crown Court was told during the trial that Mr Suller’s efforts to get an exprostitute he had fallen in love with off drugs, cost him his life His family and friends burst into tears in the public gallery as Bowyer, living in Croesyceiliog at the time of the murder, was found guilty.

July 6:

NEWPORT council backed proposals for a new £830 million road to ease congestion on the M4.

It said a new road south of Newport would make the road network more resilient to incidents on the M4 but it opposed a proposed new Brynglas Tunnel or flyovers on the Southern Distributor Road.

Cheaper than the shelved M4 Relief Road, and not a motorway, the proposal re-ignited opposition from environmental campaigners who fought the Relief Road proposals that were shelved in 2009.

The council believes something has to be done to ease congestion and blockages on the M4 when major accidents occur, but it said an estimated completion date for a new road - 2031 - was not acceptable.

July 12:

PONTYPOOL RFC faced relegation from the Premiership after losing an appeal against the Welsh Rugby Union’s decision in the High Court.

The champions of Wales five times from 1972-88 had challenged the decision, made as part of a restructuring of divisional rugby in Wales, claiming theWRU had succumbed to pressure to increase the new Premiership from ten teams to 12, against the rules as they stood.

But a High Court judge said the decision was not unfair to Pontypool, nor was their exclusion from the new division.

The club was considering an appeal but faced the prospect of a hefty and possibly crippling legal bill, later revealed to be £400,000.

July 14:

TWO heroin addicts were each jailed for ten years after admitting killing Newport father Tony Singh.

Caerphilly men Karl Drummond and Shahid Rafiq, both 37, pleaded guilty to 24-year-old Mr Singh’s manslaughter at Cardiff Crown Court.

He had been hit over the head with a metal bar on November 11 2010, causing skull fractures and bleeding on the brain. He was found dead at his city flat on November 15.

Rafiq had called Mr Singh, a drug dealer, on the day of the attack as the previous day they had been ripped off in an attempt to buy heroin, which turned out to be gravy powder.

Rafiq told Drummond on the way to meeting Mr Singh that he had been attacked by dealers in Newport a few days before, and Drummond concealed a metal bar in a sleeve. When they met Mr Singh an altercation occurred and the latter was hit at least three times.

July 19:

CHRIS Blight stood down as chairman of Newport County, admitting that abusive phone calls to his family home were the final straw.

Blight, chairman of the Exiles for almost ten years, said that his nearest and dearest had to be his priority and while he understood the abuse came from a tiny number of fans, it did not undo he hurt it had caused.

He had been in discussions about potential investment into the Blue Square Bet Premier League club for some weeks prior to his resignation.

July 20:

BANKING giant HSBC came under more fire from residents of a Gwent town, over branch closure proposals.

This time it was the turn of Caerleon residents, following similar protests in St Julians, Newport, and in Blaenavon.

The bank proposed to close its Backhall Street, Caerleon, branch because of what it called “a significant fall in customer usage.”

Branch users in Caerleon said they would be forced to go further afield for bank services, and South Wales EastAMLindsay Whittle said HSBC should drop its ‘world’s local bank’ slogan.

July 21:

NEWPORT council decided to press ahead with a plan to switch off every other street light in the city between 10pm and 6am.

Around 9,000 street lights would be turned off during these hours, a move set to save £200,000 a year in energy costs.

The plan was proposed by the former Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition at the civic centre, but the new Labour administration decided to take it up, despite concerns and calls for an awareness campaign for the public.

July 26:

PLANS to build a facility in Newport to burn the waste from five south east Wales council areas were thrown out by city councillors, to the delight of protesters.

The planning committee voted to reject Veolia’s proposals for a nonrecyclable waste incinerator on part of the former Llanwern steelworks site, amid worries that it could turn a proposed housing development nearby into a ghost estate.

There were also fears about traffic, dust and possible danger to health from the burning process, but despite planners recommending that approval be granted, the plan was thrown out. Veolia has appealed and a planning enquiry will be held.


August 6:

OPENING a rail link from Ebbw Vale to Newport is not in the best interests of the Gwent Valleys, Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies said.

Mr Davies said he wanted to see the Ebbw Vale-Cardiff line improved, with a metro-style service to the capital, and declared: “I don’t think the voice of Blaenau Gwent has been heard. The debate has been driven by what’s best for Newport.”

The Argus has campaigned for a Newport-Ebbw Vale passenger rail link for more than ten years, and Mr Davies’ comments were branded as “nonsense” by another campaigner, South Wales East Conservative AM William Graham. He accused Mr Davies of “failing to see the bigger picture.”

Newport council leader Bob Bright said all that was being asked for was for Newport to be given a similar opportunity to benefit from regular train services to and from the Valleys.

August 15:

A £250million motorsport facility planned for Ebbw Vale would bring 9,000 new jobs, it was announced.

The proposed Circuit of Wales, earmarked for Rassau, is expected to boost the Welsh economy by £50m a year in tourism and business investment.

Plans include a world class 3.5- mile racetrack for events such as MotoGP, World Superbikes, World Motorcross, and Touring Cars.

Also included are an international kart track and motorcross track, with a racing academy to develop elite riders and drivers.

The 830-acre site would also include industrial, commercial and leisure units , a medical centre, and a technology park.

August 20:

AT the end of July, Sian Evans and Daley Witcombe had to say a heartbreaking goodbye to sevenmonth- old daughter Seren, after a long battle to save her following her premature birth late in 2011.

But the couple are determined to keep her memory alive, and friends organised a series of fundraising events in aid of the neo-natal unit at the Royal Gwent Hospital, which cared for Seren during her final months.

Born three months premature and weighing just 500g – around 1lb – Seren never got to go home to Talywain. But Ms Evans and Mr Witcombe said they hoped the fundraising events would help other babies born very early.

August 22:

FOODBANKS in Gwent handed out more than 22,000 meals to more than 2,000 crisis-hit people during 2011, it was revealed.

Emergency food parcels worth £18,000 were given to 2,466 people who may have lost their jobs or experienced benefit delays, and to low-income families or the homeless.

There are six foodbanks in Gwent and the longest-running, at Beech Grove, Ebbw Vale, saw demand increase by 98 per cent in April and May this year, compared to those months in 2011.

August 27:

IT came from the skies... and puzzled Gwent residents suggested there had been anything from an explosion to a bin falling over.

But experts said there was sufficient evidence to suggest a meteor sped across the Gwent skies.

People from Newport to Abergavenny, from Cross Keys to Blaenavon, reported hearing a loud bang shortly before midnight.

Most reports came from Cwmbran, and the Twittersphere was busy with supposition.

A spokesman from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich said the description suggested it might be a bolide, also known as a detonating fireball, which may have created a sonic boom as it passed.

● Tomorrow, we examine the headlines in September and October.