By David Gold at Lee Valley White Water Centre

Kate_Hoey_Mayor_of_Londons_Commissioner_for_Sport_witnesses_early_London_2012_legacy_29-06-11June 29 - The Mayor of London's Commissioner for Sport, Kate Hoey, hailed the Lee Valley White Water Centre, which will host the London 2012 canoe slalom, as the best white water rafting facility that she had seen.

Hoey spoke at the venue's Schools Festival after having met children taking to the water to try out white water rafting at the centre, which will host five days of competition during next year's Olympic Games.

"It's better than anything I've seen," said Hoey, who is also the MP for Vauxhall and a former Sports Minister under Tony Blair.

"It's a world class facility.

"I've been to the [2000] Sydney Olympics and this is better than anything that has been provided.

"It costs a lot of money but is worth it."

The festival is providing 2,160 youngsters from every London Borough with the opportunity to experience an Olympic venue first hand.

The Lee Valley White Water Centre is also the first venue for next year's London Games to be completed and to receive paying guests.

The festival, which runs until July 6, is a visible legacy even before the Olympics, something Hoey was keen to emphasise.

"Here is legacy in action even before the Olympics have started," she said.

"Seeing this fantastic facility and [for the children to] be able to use it knowing the Olympic competitors will be on the same water is fantastic.

"It's a very disciplined sport, so it's not all about just having fun.

"It's an experience they won't have had before and hopefully they'll want to do more."

Lee_Valley_White_Water_Centre_with_schoolchildren_going_down_it_June_29_2011Among the children enjoying the opportunity to try their hand at white water rafting were Alex and Tiffany, both 15-years-old, of London Academy.

"It was really good fun," said Tiffany.

"It's the first time I've done this, it's difficult to get going in the right direction," added Alex, who also said that he would be keen to take to the water again.

Their deputy headteacher, Stefan Hastings, was thrilled to have the opportunity to take his pupils to experience what he described as "a fantastic opportunity".

He continued: "They were nervous but once they've gone down there once it's fantastic.

"They'll remember this for the rest of their lives, and they'll be talking about the canoeing or white water rafting rather than the athletics.

"We'll see it on the Olympics, and the whole organisation has been brilliant."

The centre has also won the right to host the 2015 World Canoe Slalom Championships in April, becoming the first Olympic venue to be chosen to hold a major world sporting event post-2012.

Shaun Dawson, the chief executive of Lee Valley, discussed how the venue will provide a lasting legacy.

"It's about getting the balance between giving athletes the time to train and then generating the income from rafting," he said.

"It will then be a balance between income generating activity from rafting and corporate hospitality, and then the sports development and schools programme.

"It's building on this type of event so that week on week we have schools coming.

"Legacy is about planning and using it as an opportunity to deliver what we should be doing anyway."

The venue has two courses - a 300 metre Olympic standard competition course with a 5.5 metre descent and a 160 metre Legacy Loop with a 1.6 metre descent - and Dawson says it is the second course which sets the venue apart from similar Olympic white water rafting facilities.

"People in the world of canoeing have been saying this is the best white water centre in the world," he said.

"In Athens or Beijing they had a successful Olympics but they don't have that second course."

More than 40,000 visitors have already used the centre since it opened in April, generating £725,000 for the venue, and there is a range of water sports on offer to the general public, with prices starting from £5 and going up to £49 for white water rafting.

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