MEDAL-HUNTING Caribbean athletes will swap their sun-soaked isle for the cooler climes of Wearside.
Grenada’s Olympic team has selected Sunderland as its UK training base.
The tropical island’s competitors will use city sports facilities in the run-up to the London 2012 games.
The Grenadian National Olympics Committee (GNOC) made the decision after visiting three months ago to tour Sunderland University, the Stadium of Light, Sunderland Aquatic Centre and other sporting venues.
Council leader Paul Watson said: “We are delighted to be working in close partnership with University of Sunderland to welcome the Grenada Olympic Team to use the city’s facilities.
“Hopefully they can be used as a springboard to help the Grenada team achieve great things at the Olympics. It’s fantastic news for the city that we will be playing a role in the Olympic Games in 2012.”
Ivan Whitfield, director of sport at the university, hopes it marks the beginning of a longer-term relationship with the GNOC and the island of Grenada.
“There has been a tremendous partnership effort between the University of Sunderland, Sunderland City Council and SAFC to make this happen, supported by One North East and other sporting facilities in the region.
“It is fair to say that without this team approach, we may have not been successful in attracting the Grenada athletes to Sunderland.
“We demonstrated that our joined up offer is second-to-none in a city environment.”
Mr Whitfield said the university’s expertise in sports science, sport medicine, injury prevention and treatment played a big part.
The news was announced yesterday – 500 days before the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic games on July 27 next year.
On his visit to Sunderland, GNOC president Royston La Hée spoke to university sports staff and sporting academic experts, and looked around the award-winning £12million CitySpace building, in Chester Road.
“The facilities in Sunderland and at the university are excellent,” he said. “I have been very impressed with what I have seen.
“The Grenada Olympic Committee wishes to thank Sunderland for the continued interest you have shown in having us visit you for pre-Olympic training, and is pleased to inform you of our acceptance of your invitation.
“We look forward to our stay with you.”
Once Grenada has selected its team, the 20 sportsmen and women will live on campus for three weeks between June 29 and July 20.
Mr Whitfield said they will eat, socialise, receive treatment and hold team briefings at the university, and utilise whatever sporting facilities they require.