March 4 - For less than the price of a bar of chocolate, young people in Wigan can use the same treadmill as Olympic legend Usain Bolt or power through a session on the same dumbbells as Paralympic star David Weir, thanks to a unique project funded by sports business tycoon and chairman of Wigan Athletic, Dave Whelan.
Youngsters aged from eight to 25 are getting inspired to become more active at the Wigan Youth Zone, following a partnership between official gym equipment supplier at London 2012, Technogym, and the Wigan Boys and Girls Club charity.
The unique partnership has seen Technogym donate around £200,000 (£334,000/€243,000) of equipment from the official London 2012 Athletes' Village to the Wigan Youth Zone facility, which was opened in June last year.
The facility, which was funded by former professional football player Whelan and local businessmen Bill and Martin Ainscough, and cost around £6 million ($10 million/€7.3 million) to build, has become a hub for young people in Wigan and the surrounding areas.
As well as providing opportunities to use the same gym equipment as Olympic champions like Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford, the centre has four Astro-turf pitches, a skate park, climbing wall and indoor facilities for football, badminton, basketball, tennis, table tennis and volleyball.
Youngsters can also come in and take part in acting, music, hairdressing and cooking classes among a variety of activities.
Whelan, who broke his leg in the 1960 FA Cup Final while playing for Blackburn Rovers, is the driving force behind the Wigan Youth Zone, and explained that he wanted to provide young people in the town with the same opportunities he had.
"When I was growing up my father took me to Wigan Boys Club when I was 12 and it was my life until I joined Blackburn Rovers when I was 17," Whelan told insidethegames.
"I owed so much to the Wigan Boys Club and it was such a shame when it closed down about 20 years ago.
"So I always had the idea to open it up again and when I mentioned the idea to a couple of my friends [Bill and Martin Ainscough] they were right behind the idea."
Communications manager at the Wigan Youth Zone, Angela Kirk, revealed that since first opening its doors on June 8 last year, the club has amassed nearly 9,000 members, more than quadrupling an initial target of 2,000 in the first year.
Each member pays a £5 ($8.35/€6) annual fee and pays an additional 50 pence ($0.83/€0.61) each time they visit, which grants them access to all facilities.
The club costs around £1.4 million ($2.34 million/€1.7 million) a year to run and along with membership fees, Wigan Council has committed to provide a third of the running costs for the first three years of operation, revealed Kirk.
The centre was officially opened by Prime Minister David Cameron, and a proud Whelan claimed Cameron told him it was the "finest youth facility he had ever seen".
But Whelan, who went on to establish the JJB Sports sports clothing firm when he retired from the professional game in 1966, believes that the Government and local authorities across Britain are not doing enough to "help out the youth of today" and called on local firms and business "to club together and create facilities like ours", adding that it was fundamental to achieving a lasting legacy from London 2012.
"Our youth today do not get looked after properly and they have nowhere to go at night," said the 77-year-old, who claimed that between 800 and 1,000 young people use the Wigan Youth Zone on a daily basis.
"People complain when they get in trouble and say that all they are into is alcohol or stealing.
"Why don't we give them facilities like this?
"I don't think we as a nation are doing enough to help our youngsters."
Whelan highlighted the co-operation between Technogym and the Wigan Youth Zone as an example of how local authorities and businesses can work together to help create better opportunities and facilities for young people.
"Technogym gave us everything in this gym and they helped us enormously; it was a fantastic gesture," said Whelan.
"So there is help for everybody."
Italian based firm Technogym has been the official gym equipment supplier at previous Olympic Games including Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
The firm also supplies equipment to DW Sports Fitness, which is a chain of fitness centres owned by Whelan.
"It is amazing to imagine that equipment once used by Olympic champions will now be trained on by young people here in this wonderful facility, and there is no better use for it," said Technogym President Nerio Alessandri.
"When Technogym became the official fitness supplier to London 2012, inspiring a generation of young people was one of our long-term goals.
"Thanks to the contribution of people like David Whelan, this dream has now become a reality.
"I couldn't be happier to think that we are creating a real and tangible legacy of the Games amongst youth in Wigan, in one of the biggest youth centres of its kind in Europe."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
November 2012: Technogym Village opened by former US President
June 2012: British athletes will be dancing to the same tune at London 2012