October 19 - Sri Lanka are to train at Durham University before the London 2012 Olympics, it was announced today.
The University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the country's National Olympic Committee to use its sports facilities, where the team of athletes will train
Dan Lewis, Deputy Director of Sport at Durham University, said: "We are very pleased to be able to offer Sri Lanka’s elite athletes the use of our sports facilities.
"We do a lot of work with local communities in Sri Lanka since the tsunami and we are always keen to further strengthen these links.
"Our students and partners will no doubt benefit from sharing the facilities with the Olympic athletes – feeling more closely connected to, and part of, the Olympics as a result.
"The planned facility developments over the next 18 months will further strengthen our resource to fulfill the needs of both our own world class athletes and those visiting us."
Sri Lanka sent eight competitors to six sports for the Olympics in Beijing last year, where they failed to win a medal.
Sri Lanka has only ever won two gold medals since making its debut at the London Olympics in 1948 when it was known as Ceylon, the banner it competed under until the Munich Games in 1972.
Duncan White won a silver medal in the 400 metres hurdles in 1948 and Sri Lanka had to wait until Sydney in 2000 for its second medal, a bronze for Susanthika Jayasinghe (pictured) in the women's 200m.
That could still be upgraded to a silver medal by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after the disqualification of the winner, the American Marion Jones, who was stripped of the gold after she admitted she had been using banned performance-enhancing drugs at the time.
The IOC is due to discuss the matter at the next meeting of its ruling Executive Board in Lausanne in December.
The agreement for Sri Lanka to be based in Durham, announced during a visit by Paul Deighton, the chief executive of London 2012, follows similar news announced in July that North East England is in discussions with the Colombian National Olympic Committee to identify regional venues to base its athletes ahead of the 2012 Games.
Deighton said: "Being the first to sign a competing team for North East England is great news for Durham University and the surrounding areas.
"The Graham Sports Centre will help the Sri Lankan athletes train and prepare well for the 2012 Games.
"They are assured of a very warm welcome in North East England.
"It also gives the people of Durham a chance to get involved in the build up to the Games and potentially develop some exciting social and cultural programmes around the team’s visit."