September 21 - The Belarus and Ukraine Judo Federations today signed deals to train in Kent ahead of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Oleksandr Nagibin and Uladzimir Yemelyanau representing the two nations' federations, paid a visit to County Hall in Maidstone today to sign an agreement with Kent County Council (KCC) Chairman John Davies.
It is the largest pre-Games training camp deal in the South East region so far and is only the second multi-nation agreement to be signed in the UK after the North West agreement with a group of Pacific islands signed in May.
Also present at the signing were Chris Bowles from Tonbridge Judo Club and Mark Organ from Tonbridge School .
The athletes from Belarus and Ukraine are expected to come to Kent in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and will be training at the Tonbridge Judo Centre and Tonbridge School, which will also provide their accommodation. 

Young members of the Tonbridge Judo Centre will have the opportunity to train alongside Olympic athletes.
Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012, said: “This is great news for Tonbridge and Kent. 

"These facilities will help the athletes train and prepare well for the London Games. 

"It also gives Tonbridge a chance to get involved in our plans and feel the excitement of the Games."

Ukraine have won three Olympic medals in judo since making their debut as an independent country at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, including a bronze for Roman Gontiuk in Beijing last year.

At the recent World Championships in Rotterdam Ukraine finished sixth overall in the medals with two medals, including a gold for Georgiy Zantaraya in the 60kg, the extra-lightweight division.

For Belarus, meanwhile, judo is one of only four sports they have ever won an Olympic gold medal in.

That came at Athens in 2004 when Ihar Makarau claimed victory in the men's 100kg category. 

KCC Cabinet Member for Communities Mike Hill said: "It is a real honour to have these teams coming to Kent."

"These high profile nations will give local people the chance to see elite athletes training and staying in their local area, something which is very exciting ahead of 2012."

The Meapa Gymnastic Club in Gravesend is also hoping to attract Ukraine's gymnastics team to train there before London 2012.

Hill said: "We are very keen to build tourism, cultural, educational and sporting links with Belarus and Ukraine as a result."

In signing the agreement the Ukraine and Belarus became the first countries to commit to training camps in Kent for the 2012 Olympics.

But the Barbados Paralympic team had already committed in April this year to train at Medway Park in Gillingham in the run-up to the London 2012 Paralympics.

Nepal have also been invited by the actress Joanna Lumley to train Kent before the 2012 Olympics.

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February 2009: Dame Kelly backs Kent plan for 2012