‘Generation of kids will be lost if Battersea Sports Centre closes’: Olympian backs campaign to save facility

A Battersea-born Olympic table tennis star has backed a campaign to save Battersea Sports Centre from closure.

Darius Knight, who was part of Team GB and a torchbearer at London 2012, still lives in Battersea and played tournaments at the centre as a child.

The 24-year-old, who won silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, will visit the centre this Saturday to listen to members’ concerns and help drum up support.

Wandsworth Council recently announced proposals to shut the centre by the end of 2015 in order to build around 90 affordable homes on the Hope Street site.

“We always talk about sport as the way forward for some of these areas and for the health of people in general, but if you keep shutting them down how can people stay healthy and keep out of trouble?” Knight told South West Londoner.

“If you don’t look after the children of today, what is going to happen tomorrow?”

Darius Knight table tennis action photographer Dominic Marley

Knight, who runs coaching sessions to get schoolchildren into table tennis, said he wanted to set up his own training club but had struggled to find adequate facilities.

He said closing the centre would affect future would-be table tennis stars from Wandsworth, which also produced Paralympian Aaron McKibbin, who scooped a bronze medal at London 2012.

“You are going to lose a generation of kids who won’t be active,” said Knight.

The campaign was launched by Will Martindale, the Labour Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for Battersea.

He was joined last week by Tom Watson, Labour’s former deputy chairman, who came out in support of the campaign.

Mr Martindale has written an open letter inviting Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia and Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea and Public Health Minister, to attend Saturday’s event.

In our previous report Councillor Govindia said the closure was part of the regeneration of the Winstanley and York Road estates.

Darius Knight table tennis action 2 photographer Dominic Marley

Earlier this month Councillor Paul Ellis, cabinet member for housing, also said the council would provide alternative facilities, including a new 3G pitch in Falcon Park and a state-of-the-art sports centre on the Winstanley Estate, which could be ready by 2019.

“Our clear commitment – both in the short term and the long term – is to ensure local people continue to have excellent sporting facilities at their disposal and that the quality of those services will improve,” said Councillor Ellis.

Knight will be at Battersea Sports Centre between 1-3pm on Saturday January 24.

Pictures courtesy of Dominic Marley, with thanks

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