May 11 - Serbia have agreed to set up a pre-Games training camp in Sheffield and Leeds before the London 2012 Olympics.
Serbia's interest in locating themselves in Sheffield had been revealed by insidethegames in January 2008.
Now, following 18 months of talks, Serbia has formalised its intention to use Leeds and Sheffield for its international training camps over the next three years with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The document, a formal agreement between Serbia, Leeds and Sheffield which declares their intention to work together, was signed in Belgrade during a Yorkshire/Serbia conference focused on developing relationships and building business links.
The meeting in Belgrade was the fourth time the Serbian Olympic Committee, which is led by former NBA superstar Vlade Divac, had met with representatives from the region since discussions began in 2007.
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Frank Robinson said: “I am delighted to sign this agreement on behalf of the city of Leeds.
"I am confident the Serbian athletes will enjoy their time in our region, and hopefully the time they spend here will help them hone their skills to be able to perform at their best in the London 2012 Olympics, which we are all greatly looking forward to.”
Sylvia Dunkley, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Streetscene at Sheffield City Council, said: “The signing of this agreement is testament to the outstanding facilities and sporting proficiency we have in Sheffield and Leeds and we are delighted to have secured this agreement.
“We look forward to welcoming the Serbian athletes to Yorkshire in the near future and will be encouraging them to meet with and get involved with the local communities while they are here.”
Kate Auld of Yorkshire Gold, the region’s London 2012 Committee, said: “Yorkshire’s already starting to attract major international interest in our world class training facilities for the London 2012 Games – and we’re still three years away.
"Hosting pre-Games training camps will give people the chance to get involved with events happening on their doorstep; whether its watching Olympic hopefuls in training or local businesses securing contracts to take care of the teams when they arrive.”
Yorkshire has already seen a financial benefit as international training camps and similar events held over the last three years has generated more than £1 million for the region’s economy.
Serbia made its Olympic debut at Stockholm in 1912 but then competed as part From 1920 to 2006 Serbian athletes participated as part of the Yugoslavian and Serbia and Montenegro team.
In 1992 they participated as Independent Olympic Participants before returning as an independent nation at Beijing last year.
They sent a team of 92 athletes in 11 sports.
This figure is likely to increase considerably year on year up to London 2012 and also in the longer term due to closer business and cultural ties being developed, officials claimed.
The sports that are expected to base themselves in Sheffield include boxing, judo and athletics.
The sports which are likely to feature in the Leeds camps are swimming, diving, gymnastics and cycling which could possibly mean swimming star Milorad Cavic (pictured), who pushed Michael Phelps all the way as he claimed silver behind the American sensation in the 100 metres butterfly in Beijing, coming to the region.
Other sports which could be focused on in the camps include basketball, handball and volleyball, which Serbia are recognised as being highly competitive in.
Apart from making use of the training facilities, the athletes will also be taking part in English-language courses and working with coaches in Leeds and Sheffield in areas such as nutrition and physiology.
The Serbs will also be working with the UK Centre for Coaching Excellence based at Leeds Metropolitan University and the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University.