Meeting:Gary Fooks, Dorset 2012 Legacy Manager
PUBLISHED: 15:21 09 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:42 20 February 2013
Michel Hooper-Immins talks to a man he considers an inspired choice for this important post.
In just over 31/2 years, the eyes of the world will be on Weymouth & Portland as they host the 2012 sailing Olympics and Paralympics. Competitors, officials, journalists and spectators will crowd into the borough over four weeks in August 2012, causing great excitement and transmitting images of Dorset by television around the globe.
But what will be left for local people once the Olympic sailors have gone home? That's the Herculean task of entrepreneurial Gary Fooks, Dorset 2012 Legacy Manager. He aims to maximise every investment opportunity. With his customary initiative and enthusiasm, Gary is a resourceful local man enjoying an important job that will surely benefit local people for decades to come.
Born in Weymouth and educated at Weymouth Grammar School, Gary studied marine engineering at the then Southampton Institute of Technology. This led to an apprenticeship as an Engineering Officer in the Merchant Navy, going round the world. "I was always fond of South America - an amazing place," Gary tells me.
In 1981, with the British Merchant Navy shrinking fast due to increasing oil prices and the growth of flags of convenience, Gary joined the media and print industry. Broadcasting on commercial radio, he found sales and marketing work interesting, but as an employer he was unhappy that young employees often had to be re-trained to be effective.
So, on returning to Weymouth in 1995 to teach at Royal Manor Arts College on Portland, he initiated links between education and business. He started Portland's first commercial radio station and subsequently became Director of the Chesil Education Partnership.
Gary and his wife, Jane, have been together for 20 years. Jane is Development Director of the Portland Academy project and both have offices in Maritime House at Southwell. Son Tom is a Senior Aircraftsman with the Royal Air Force and daughter Amy is a mortgage case-worker in Bournemouth.
With his natural enthusiasm, Gary is an inspired choice for Dorset 2012 Legacy Manager, a pivotal link between many organisations with the single aim of creating as much legacy for Dorset as possible from the 2012 Olympics. Started in November 2007, the post is funded by the South West of England Development Authority, Dorset County Council, Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, West Dorset District Council and Dorset Primary Care Trust.
"For four weeks in summer 2012, the greatest show on earth will come to Weymouth & Portland, but the impact of the sailing Olympics will be felt throughout Dorset," Gary assures me. "There has been real concern about what we can achieve for the Dorset community in terms of legacy. My role is to motivate, support and help link people up. Team Dorset is all about setting up teams and partnerships, then getting them moving." Indeed, Gary's work with Team Dorset has been short-listed for a Government Beacon Award, recognising excellence in local government work.
One of the best examples of enduring legacy is the transformation of Portland's Osprey Quay. "Little of that development would have happened but for the Olympics," says Gary. "It may well have come in time, but 2012 certainly accelerated interest. The late Bill Ludlow had the vision to create the National Sailing Academy on the shore of Portland Harbour and that put us in the frame for the Olympics."
Osprey Quay will be the first Olympic venue to be finished. An 80-berth marina is being built and 700 more berths will be added shortly. More employment space has enabled Sunseeker to bring their luxury yacht-building business to Portland. At Castle Court, on the north end of the site, the new Royal Yachting Association headquarters is being built, with even more industrial units.
"2012 has been a lever for change right across Dorset," enthuses Gary. "There are now two trains an hour from London to Weymouth where there only used to be one. Weymouth will benefit from the seafront regeneration scheme worth £6 million and the Olympic transport package will put 18 million into better road and rail links."
Weymouth will at last get a bus/train interchange at the town's railway station, abolishing the ridiculous situation of rail passengers having to walk half a mile to the bus terminus. 'Intelligent bus stops' will display the times and destinations of the next buses to arrive. At Bournemouth Airport, 45 million is being invested to make a top-quality regional airport. Many overseas visitors will inevitably arrive by air.
Marketeer Roy Griffiths from Creative Solutions and Rosie Julian from the Sailing Academy thought up the idea of the 'Spirit of the Sea Festival', a summer extravaganza that started last year under Gary's chairmanship and which continues this year.
"I'm confident that Weymouth, Portland and Dorset will deliver a great games. One of the greatest rewards is being seen by four billion television viewers worldwide. I reckon the Olympics will have attracted 400 million to Dorset - improvements that will still be here long after the Olympians have gone home. We have learned from Manchester, hosts of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Once on the international stage, you can do it again and again. Manchester this year attracted the UEFA Cup Final and world cycling and swimming championships."
With his background in education, Gary often thinks about the future of the young. "I want to create a community environment in which our young people can live, learn, work and thrive. I'm really proud of the positive attitude of Dorset's local authorities, communities and businesspeople, but I want to motivate more to maximise our legacy. The 2012 games are a catalyst and an accelerant. There are significant business, cultural, sporting and social opportunities to be won before, during and beyond 2012."www.dorsetmagazine.co.uk