The Yorkshire Evening Post has joined forces with Leeds City Council to launch a celebration of our city. Today we highlight Leeds’s sporting prowess.
THIS year may have seen one of the most crowded sporting calendars in living memory, but anticipation is already building ahead of Leeds playing host to one of the world’s biggest tournaments in just over 12 months’ time.
Some of the planet’s greatest rugby players will be heading to the city next year for the Rugby League World Cup, with Headingley Carnegie the venue for the group stage clash between reigning world champions New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, as well as one of the quarter finals.
Leeds will also be the base for the New Zealand and Italian national teams throughout the tournament, which will be staged in October and November next year.
“The 2013 Rugby League World Cup is really important to us,” said Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for leisure and chair of the Leeds World Cup Consortium.
“We have the facilities, stadium, community spirit and passion for rugby league that is needed to really embrace the occasion and make it a truly great event for the entire city.”
Delegates from the national sides of New Zealand, Italy and Papua New Guinea have already visited Leeds for planning meetings and venue visits. The Italian delegates also toured the Marriot Hotel in the city centre, where their national team will be based during the World Cup.
“Having the World Cup is certainly very exciting for the city,” added Coun Ogilvie. “It builds on the excitement this year surrounding the Olympics and all that’s happening in the city.
“We have a very long sporting tradition in Leeds, particularly around rugby and I think people will be proud to see the city hosting two of the matches and having two teams based here as well in New Zealand and Italy.
“We also want to link it in with other sporting and cultural events to really make the most of it and get as many people involved as possible.
“This year we launched Leeds Inspired and the theme of that was based around the Olympics. Next year the theme will be around the Rugby League World Cup.
“An event of this kind really puts Leeds on the map. The Rugby League World Cup will be watched by 100 million people around the globe and that means Leeds’s name will be beamed around the world.
“We are also hoping to use it to encourage people to do any kind of physical activity that can lead up to sport, as well as develop some of the smaller rugby league clubs in the city. Headingley is obviously involved and it would be good to get others involved in some way too.
“Over the next couple of months we will be building them into our plans for the Rugby League World Cup, as well as ways of giving young people the chance to see the teams when they are here.
“It’s about inspiring young people and hopefully helping to support some of the smaller clubs and reach young people in communities across the city.”
England and Leeds Rhinos star Jamie Jones Buchanan said the fact the World Cup was coming to Leeds offered a golden opportunity to further boost the game’s popularity.
“It’s a big deal for Leeds and for Headingley,” he said. “To host any prestigious game or tournament is special and I know Gary [Hetherington] and everyone else was proud to host the England versus Exiles game last year.
“Headingley is the pitch I’ve grown up with. I used to watch Leeds as a kid and saw my heroes play there and dreamed that one day I’d be out there myself.
“It’s a great stadium – up there with Elland Road – and it’s got such an amazing history with its cricket and rugby so it definitely deserves to stage these big games. Even now when I jog on to that pitch the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
“Hopefully the World Cup coming here will get more people interested in the game. There are a lot of clubs in the city but in areas like north Leeds we could do with a few more.
“Something like the Rugby League World Cup doesn’t come round very often and you have to make the most of it, just like the Olympics.
“Hopefully we can use it as an opportunity to give rugby league in Leeds a real boost.”