The Europa Centre is a state-of-the-art sports centre which was built as part of Sport England’s Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Programme.
Yvonne and husband Len are head coaches at the Europa Gymnastics Centre - they sold their home to support the club before being awarded a grant for a new facility ahead of the Olympics. This was used as a training centre for the Games before being handed back to the community.
Gymnastic coaches Len and Yvonne Arnold opened their first club 20 years ago in an old industrial building in Bexley. It was just a bare shell with no lighting or heating, but with the hard work of a team of volunteers they transformed it, carving out gymnastic landing pits from the concrete floor and installing a sprung competition floor. The centre quickly became popular with the local community, but rent rises made it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
Faced with the prospect of possible closure six years ago, the couple made the dramatic decision to sell their house and move into the centre, and used the profits from their house to help run the club. Despite this, the club was becoming dilapidated and Len and Yvonne knew what they really needed to secure their future and cater for growing numbers was a new facility.
They applied for National Lottery funding under Sport England’s Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Programme and were awarded a £1.24 million grant for a new state-of-the-art facility. The Europa Centre opened in 2012 as an Olympic and Paralympic training venue for 22 volleyball teams from around the world. After the Games finished it was handed back to Len and Yvonne to manage and now caters for 2,000 gymnasts of all levels, from beginner to elite. It is also for other sports including boxing, martial arts and weightlifting and is the training venue for Team GB weight lifter Zoe Smith.
Len and Yvonne were awarded OBE’s for services to gymnastics. They were invited by Sir Seb Coe to carry the Olympic Torch.
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