The father of an Olympic medal winner is appealing to Christians to open their doors to the families of athletes taking part in the 2012 Games.
KATE PARKIN reports
Peter Laverick, churchwarden at St Nicholas in Poling, near Arundel, West Sussex said the gesture could make a huge difference to their experience – and he should know.
His daughter Elise, now 36, has taken part in the past three Olympic Games and he and wife Elaine have gone with her each time.
Peter said: “It was absolutely fantastic when she was chosen for the British rowing team for Sydney in 2000, but she was selected late and we were suddenly faced with the prospect of raising £5,000 we did not have for fares, accommodation and food for a month’s visit. The spectator tickets alone cost hundreds of pounds.
“Of course we were determined to go. Luckily the firm Samsung was sponsoring a friends and family arrangement whereby host families in Australia offered free accommodation for families of competitors.
“We were offered a place by a Church Army family in the Blue Mountains. Although this was 60 miles from the main games venue, Australia gave us free travel by train or bus as holders of tickets for the events.”
There were no medals for Elise in Australia but the Lavericks had a wonderful time. “The accommodation was a Godsend and it made all the difference to us,” said Peter.
“We formed a deep friendship with the family who so kindly put up with us and also enjoyed the local church and the great welcome there.”
Four years later Elise was selected for Athens.
“It was not so difficult for us to get there but accommodation prices soared by six times. By strange coincidence, Arundel parish magazine advertised a holiday flat near Athens. Again we were about 30 miles from the events, but Elaine and our older daughter Helen and I were able to go and cheer Elise.”
Their support proved invaluable and she came away with a bronze medal for the double scull event.
The family was overjoyed when Elise was selected for the Beijing Games, but Peter found it to be “a different ball game – much more expensive.
“The infrastructure there was unable to cope with private travellers and so we went the deluxe route and had a great time. Fortunately this time we could better afford it.”
Once again Elise came away with bronze. Peter said the family being with her each time “unquestionably” helped her and he wants to make it easier for families to give the same support to athletes in the London Games.
“The financial complications have been considerable and it is worth mentioning how we have been helped by the Church in the hope others may help and be helped in the same way.
“I would urge everyone to open their doors. As a parent of an athlete you wonder how you can find thousands of pounds to go and support them.
“It doesn’t matter if your accommodation is some distance from the venues. It’s also worth noting the competition will take your guests away most days.
“A great bonus is you will make friends with unexpected people – and you will be part of the Games.”
Elise has now retired but the Lavericks will still be involved with 2012 – Elaine is one of the volunteer officials.
More Than Gold is helping churches in the UK to engage with the 2012 Games in many different ways.
At previous Games, the Christian community has provided over half of all the homes needed to host the Olympic and Paralympic athletes’ family members. More Than Gold wants to do even better next year!
Through the Athlete’s Family Homestay programme, Christians in London and the venue cities are needed to:
There are also wider opportunities to offer hospitality
during the Games. For further information go to:
www.morethangold.org.uk/hospitality or call 0845 475 2012
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