Countdown to 2012 in Dorset
Sailing off Portland
Weymouth and Portland's Olympic challenge
As developments begin, Weymouth and Portland are facing an Olympic challenge: to be ready for the world's top yachtsmen, and the thousands of fans who will come to watch them.
There are just five years to go before the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy hosts the sailing events for the 2012 Games. Consultations are coming to an end, developers are moving in and changes will soon be irreversible.
But will the changes benefit local people? Jacqui Gisborne of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council thinks so.
She says: "People might be scared of change, but they just need to realise the opportunities. Tourism is our biggest earner, and the Olympics will bring a surge of people to the area.
"These visitors will want to stay in expensive hotels. They'll also want to shop and eat out. It can only benefit local businesses."
'Fancy apartment blocks'
But Barry Yeomans, a barber in Weymouth, disagrees: "I've had customers telling me that they've had notes through the door asking if they're prepared to sell their houses.
Designs for luxury flats on Portland
The developers want to build fancy apartment blocks – they're not interested in meeting local needs. These changes will bring in people who've got money and price the locals out."
Weymouth and Portland will host the sailing events, based around the National Sailing Academy at Osprey Quay on Portland, which was developed from the old naval station.
But the whole area will be transformed with a new marina and luxury seafront apartments on Portland, a £100 million Pavilion and ferry terminal in Weymouth and a multi-million pound relief road.
There are also plans to build Weymouth's first 4 star hotel.
The announcement that Britain had won the bid, in July 2005, was greeted with wild celebrations in Weymouth and Portland.
But the initial cheers have given way to deeper concerns about whether the changes are sustainable – and whether they'll benefit local residents.
'A new lease of life'
Miles Butler, Dorset County Council director, recently told the House of Commons that "Weymouth suffers from being at the end of a cul-de-sac.
"We have not yet seen evidence that the needs in our area are being given the same attention as the events in London."
Jacqui is keen to stress that the new facilities won't lie empty once the Olympics are over: "When the Navy left Portland, there wasn't much going for Portland.
"The new Sailing Academy has brought us a new lease of life."
last updated: 17/04/2008 at 13:42
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