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Former members of world-renowned Princes Club in Bedfont, Middlesex, have got together in a bid to give waterskiing a chance to continue at the 60-year-old club.
Heathrow Airport Ltd. required the closure of the club in November 2012 prior to acquiring the site on 15th January 2013 from previous owner Bill Bottriell.
Fred Winter, current British slalom waterski champion, said:
“Princes is a world-class site where international legend and many times world champion Andy Mapple learnt his skills. I hope Heathrow Airport Ltd. are aware of this and understand the strength of feeling of both members and all involved in waterskiing around the world…
… Princes gave me my first start in waterskiing. It’s where I entered my first pro-competition and it would be ironic in an Olympic year with wakeboarding up for Olympic selection, if Heathrow Airport Ltd. can't come up with a solution to support such a revered facility. It goes against everything that public policy and corporate social responsibility should be about. In the context of green belt land (which Princes is on), making leisure facilities as widely available as possible and fighting the obesity epidemic, the closure of Princes would be nothing short of a disgrace. Waterskiing is a sport in which Britain is pre-eminent."
Heathrow Airport Ltd. said it purchased the site “for operational purposes associated with our water quality and environmental objectives. This is likely to require physical reconfiguration of the lakes themselves, but our precise plans will take some time to be established”
In a statement to the campaign committee, Heathrow Airport Ltd. has stated that this requirement is not conducive with the continuation of waterskiing, yet it has declined to say why. However, Heathrow Airport Ltd. has admitted that the proposed changes to the site could take many months or even years to finalise.
Founded in 1952, Princes Club has a long and distinguished history. Prince William skied there, as did Princess Margaret - along with a great number of celebrities including Tony Blackburn, John Pertwee and sports reporter Jonny Saunders – not to mention the vast list of world champion and record-holding skiers and wakeboarders – including Mike Hazelwood MBE, Karen Morse MBE, Paul Seaton, Philippa Roberts MBE, Andy Mapple OBE, Jeremy Newby-Ricci, Jodi Fisher and Fred Winter. More recently, Dancing On Ice host Christine Bleakley trained at Princes to prepare for her waterski across the Channel for Sport Relief – and inspired by her, DJs Chris Evans and Jonny Saunders followed suit for their own sporting challenges.
In a letter to Colin Matthews, Chief Executive Officer of Heathrow Airport Ltd., Kuno Ritschard, President of the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation said:
“There is no question that Princes Club is a most important site for our sport, both nationally and internationally. It ranks on the highest level of importance to the future of our sport. The whole world of waterski and wakeboard knows of the famous Princes Club in London.
The IWWF is, at this moment, in the process of submitting information to the International Olympic Committee as Cable Wakeboard has been shortlisted for Olympic inclusion in the 2020 Games. It is ironic for the British athletes (who by the way are world class competitors in this sport) to have one of the best facilities removed from them just before becoming an Olympic sport.
Notwithstanding the removal of the Cable installations, it is still vitally important to the sport for this club to continue, even as a private members club. It is via family involvement that young skiers turn into future champions, and it is really important for British waterskiing and wakeboard for this to continue”
Alain Amade, President of the Waterski & Wakeboard Federation for Europe said:
“I feel very concerned about the future of Princes Club. Many world and European championships took place there. I don't know about (Heathrow Airport Ltd.’s) intentions for the use of these lakes in the future, but it is clear that if waterskiing and wakeboarding are not allowed anymore, it will be a big loss for our athletes. On another level, all the studies we have made about the impact of waterskiing on this kind of lake are very positive in terms of encouraging fauna and flora in the water.”
The campaigners have questioned why Heathrow Airport Ltd. should not allow them to run a non-profit making club on part of the water - at the very least until Heathrow Airport Ltd. has concluded its long-term proposals for the lakes.
Irving Stone, part of the campaign committee said:
“From what we’ve been told, there appears to be no cogent reason for Heathrow Airport Ltd. not to agree to our modest proposals. Their cooperation can only serve to embellish Heathrow Airport Ltd.’s public image, particularly among the national sports community. We certainly don’t expect Heathrow Airport Ltd to be bothered with the running of a waterski club on the site.”
Ingrid Stone, Copy Creators: [email protected] / 07944 678 069
Celine Castelino, Copy Creators: [email protected] / 07886 811 297
Christine Bleakley at Princes – Sport Relief challenge to waterski the Channel
Chris Evans and Jonny Saunders at Princes – waterskiing for Sport Relief
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