altAugust 3 - Construction of a £38 million sports centre in Basildon earmarked as a potential training camp for Russia in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics will begin in October, it was has been announced.

Local authority officials  have approved detailed funding plans for the Basildon Sporting Village, which is set to include a 50-metre swimming pool with seating for 450 spectators.

Basildon District Council has awarded the contract to Community Solutions for Leisure.

The complex is set to open in April 2011.

The Russians, an Olympic superpower, have already approached Basildon in April 2008 about using the new Sporting Village as a training base for London 2012.

Deputy Council Leader Stephen Horgan said: “We can be proud that we will be creating a facility that will include the only 50-metre pool in Essex and a regional gymnastics centre for gymnasts from novice to Olympian standard.

“The most important point is that the Sporting Village is for everybody from residents that want to lead an active life to competition athletes through to the champions of the future.”

The complex will provide facilities for a variety of different sports such as athletics, swimming, diving, gymnastics, trampoline, badminton, netball, basketball and five-a-side football.

A large sports hall, a regional gymnastics centre, fitness centre, multi purpose studio, and climbing wall will also be incorporated into the facility along with meeting and function rooms, a cafe and a car park.

Basildon Council has identified 20 sites across the area that they can sell to help raise £19 million for the project.

It also needs to borrow up to £5.25million to pay for the project, and a be given further £13.6 million in grants and contributions given by Essex County Council, the Government and other groups for the project to go ahead.

Tony Ball, the Leader of Basildon Council, defended the sale of the assets and said some would still have been sold if the council kept its current sports facilities.

He said: “The land we have identified would have gone into maintaining the current facilities.

"The Sporting Village is the best option.”

Ball said the Council would have had to pay £10 million costs of keeping the swimming pool in Gloucester Park, one of the facilities identified to be sold off, while replacing the pool with a new one would have cost £18-20 million.