FEBRUARY 4 - STEVE CRAM (pictured), the former world record holder for the mile, is to spearhead efforts to get an overseas team to use the University of Sunderland to base themselves there in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics.
It is a key part of his new role as the Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, which is currently developing a £11 million CitySpace development.
Due for completion in August, CitySpace will comprise a sports hall, 70 station fitness suite, sports massage and injuries centre, multi-purpose room and an indoor climbing wall.
Cram studied at the University and graduated with a degree in sports studies in 1983, the year he won the 1500 metres gold medal at the World Championships.
The University's facilities have been included in the London 2012 guide for Pre-Games training camps alongside the city's new £20 million Olympic-sized swimming pool, which was opened by the Princess Royal last month.
But Cram, the 1984 Olympic 1500m silver medallist, is keen for the new facilities in Sunderland to benefit everyone interested in sport.
That was one of the main messages of London's successful bid to host the 2012 Games, led by Sebastian Coe, who beat him in those Olympics in Los Angeles.
Cram said: "Students choose a university for a number of reasons and sport is a key factor, not just academic or elite sport, but to join a club or keep fit.
"If we want to attract students, we need to offer them the facilities they desire and CitySpace will put us up there with the best, offering what our students haven’t previously had."
Cram, 48, is also planning to establish closer ties with other bodies in the region, including Sunderland Football Club, who he has supported all his life.
He said: "Much like sport, increasing inclusion and involvement in higher education is about persuading people that they can do it.
"Higher education, like sport, is not exclusive, it’s not for one type of person - it’s for everyone.
"Education isn’t just about getting the right results, it’s about participation, the chance to build confidence and esteem, achieve personal goals and be part of a team.
"There are too many barriers to people getting involved in sport and in higher education and often these barriers are just perceived.
"CitySpace and the wider City Campus development will help us change that perception, actively demonstrating that the University is for everyone and hopefully encouraging more people to get involved in both sport and education."
The new position is the latest high-profile role taken on by Cram, who, as well as being a commentator for BBC Television and writing a weekly column for a national newspaper, he is also the chairman of the English Institute of Sport, which is helping prepare Britain's team for the 2012 Olympics, and sits on the committee set-up by UK Athletics trying to revive the fortune of distance running in this country before the London Games.