By Duncan Mackay

February 23 - Birmingham was chosen to host Jamaica's pre-Olympic training for London 2012 ahead of Cardiff, Loughborough, Berlin and Amsterdam partly because of the strong cultural links will help its team, including Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, feel comfortable there, the head of the country's athletics federation revealed today.

The official agreement between Birmingham City Council and the Jamaican Amateur Athletics Association (JAAA) was signed at a special ceremony last Saturday.

Jamaicans from all across Britain travelled to the city in the Midlands to witness the event, underlining the kind of support that the team can expect while it is getting ready for London 2012 where it will be hoping to repeat its incredible performance at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 when they finished fourth overall in the athletics with 11 medals, including six gold.

The signatories were Howard Aris, the President of the JAAA, Mike Whitby, the Leader of Birmingham City Council, and Professor David Eastwood, the Vice Chancellor of Birmingham University, where the Jamaican team will be based.

Aris claimed Birmingham offered the right mix of accommodation, indoor and outdoor training facilities, state-of-the-art medical programmes and enough Jamaican culture to make the athletes feel at home.

He said: "We are very comfortable with what Birmingham has presented.

"This has been a long journey and we are happy to be formalising this agreement with a view to staging the best training camp possible for our athletes in 2012."

The deal is a major coup for Birmingham who have already signed a deal with United States Track & Field for their team to also be based in London before 2012.

Whitby said: "We have a fantastic reputation as a sporting city.

"We are proud that we will be hosting the fastest men and women in the world.

"But this relationship goes beyond the training camp.

"The work starts now to build the sporting and cultural legacies that will be mutually beneficial to Birmingham and Jamaica.

"We will start this year by sending a team to the Gibson relays and we will be having Jamaican coaches coming to Birmingham to share with us.

"We look forward to 2012 and the occasion of Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence when we will put on a spectacular show to celebrate the great ties between Jamaica and Birmingham."

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