New £33 million Capital sports centre to open

AS our victorious men and women return home from Rio, it is hoped it will inspire and create medal-winning Olympians for generations to come.

Thursday, 25th August 2016, 10:35 am
Updated Friday, 26th August 2016, 12:24 pm
Scotland Internationals showcase sports at Oriam ahead of the public opening. Picture Ian Rutherford

Known as Oriam (“Or” is Gaelic for gold and “iam” refers to the slogan “I Am Faster, Stronger, Positive”), it will become the base for Scottish football and rugby, as well as providing facilities for basketball, handball, squash and racketball.

The new “world-class” £33 million national sporting performance centre at Heriot-Watt University will officially open its doors on Monday – and while it will aim to hone a conveyor belt of elite athletes, it will also allow members of the public to work on their own fitness levels.

The concept for the national centre was taken from the findings of former first minister Henry McLeish’s review into Scottish football.

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Hearts keeper Jack Hamilton kicks a rugby ball in the new Oriam indoor pitch assisted by Scottish international rugby player Alasdair Dickinson. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Hibs will play their under-20s fixtures at Oriam’s indoor football stadium – and earlier this week christened the venue with a 2-2 draw against city rivals Hearts in front of a crowd of 400.

The Scottish Government contributed £24m to the project, with national agency Sportscotland, Heriot-Watt University and the city council providing the remaining £9m.

The development’s main features include Europe’s biggest indoor 3G football facility, an outdoor synthetic pitch, five outdoor natural football and two rugby pitches, a 12-court sports hall, a cafe and fitness suite and world-class facilities for sports science and medicine, including a hydrotherapy facilities.

The centre’s officials drew inspiration from around the world to achieve their aim of giving Scottish athletes and future sporting stars the chance to reach the top of their games.

Hearts keeper Jack Hamilton kicks a rugby ball in the new Oriam indoor pitch assisted by Scottish international rugby player Alasdair Dickinson. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Venues which were visited and examined included the multi-sports facility INSEP in Paris, Papendal in Holland, England’s football training base at St George’s Park and a number of rugby grounds south of the Border.

Catriona McAllister, Oriam’s chief executive, said all those involved were “thrilled” that the centre was now complete and by what it could offer.

“It is now all about the sports and delivering that platform both for national excellence and local participation,” she said.

“Oriam is something all of Scotland should be extremely proud of, and the response from each and every person who has toured the site since its completion confirms a truly world-class facility has been delivered.

“Oriam will provide an inspirational environment for our top athletes and those who aspire to excel from across many sports, as well as within our local community by encouraging people to improve their fitness, take part in sport or simply enjoy a more active lifestyle.”

Ms McAlliser, who spent eight years as the university’s deputy director and then director of sport and exercise, has said that although the cash investment was vital for high performance achievement, the centre also wanted to involve community clubs and students.

“It is important that community members feel like this is a great place to be.”

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association’s chief executive, described Oriam as the “crown jewel of the Scottish FA’s performance strategy”.

He said: “Oriam is a facility the whole of Scottish sport – and, indeed, the whole of the country – should be immensely proud of.

“What started as a bold ambition is now a magnificent reality, one that is befitting of its status as the crown jewel of the Scottish FA’s performance strategy.”

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city council’s sports leader, said: “Oriam will provide an excellent national home to the next generation of top athletes and those involved in helping them achieve their aims, but crucially it will also support local rising stars and those who are still developing a passion for sport.

“The Edinburgh community and local sport groups will also be able to take advantage of this world-class facility on their doorstep and be inspired to get into sport.”

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health and Sport, said: “It’s tremendous news that this fantastic facility has been finished on time and on budget.

“This is another world-class sporting facility for Scotland that will benefit both our elite athletes and grassroots competitors.”

The building’s completion comes as Scottish athletes return from the Rio Olympics with a record-equalling medal haul. The new centre will host an event for Scotland’s Olympians and Paralympians next month.

But last week senior Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser and Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie were among those to criticise plans for the homecoming event which will accommodate only 400 spectators.

They called for a public parade such as those in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2012 when thousands turned out to welcome Scottish athletes including six-time cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy and gold-winning Paralympic cyclist Neil Fachie.

Edinburgh Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton yesterday urged colleagues to back his motion, which read: “That the parliament notes the celebration of Scotland’s Olympians organised by Sportscotland at Heriot-Watt University; understands that only 400 people will be allowed to attend and believes that the public should be able to celebrate the achievements on a much wider scale.”