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University gears up for Olympic extravaganza

As the world prepares for the biggest sporting showdown on earth, the University of Sheffield is helping athletes go for gold – on and off the track.

Staff and students are gearing up for the London 2012 Olympic games in a huge variety of ways – from ground breaking medical research to leading the UK's largest ever Olympic poetry event.

To mark the third annual Universities Week (Monday 30 April-Monday 7 May, 2012) the University of Sheffield is celebrating the diverse way the institution has engaged with the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

Not only has the University of Sheffield nurtured a number of Olympic hopefuls and world-class sporting stars such as heptathlete and former student Jessica Ennis, but the institution has also helped to ensure the London 2012 is an all encompassing event which will never be forgotten.

The University's Professor of Poetry, renowned poet and screenwriter Simon Armitage, is leading the UK's largest ever poetry event, as part of the Olympic Games.The ambitious project, entitled Poetry Parnassus, will bring together more than 200 poets from all of the Olympic nations and connect a global community.

Professor Armitage said: "It's insanely ambitious - there are political issues, geographical issues, and linguistic issues all to be overcome.
"We couldn't get a poet from Antarctica. My gut feeling is that there are poets absolutely everywhere."

Poetry Parnassus will form part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad finale, which will be the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements.

The Olympic Park will become the focus of the spectacular sporting showcase from 27 July 2012 and green-fingered experts from the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield have worked tirelessly to ensure the venue will be blooming with success.

Professor Nigel Dunnett designed the Olympic Park landscape ahead of the games creating a riverbank meadow of cornflowers, marigolds, Californian poppies and prairie flowers which are set to flower gold just in time for the Opening Ceremony.

"The Olympic Park meadows have been carefully formulated to flower at their peak during the Games, producing exciting, vibrant sheets of uplifting colour, with high biodiversity value," said Professor Dunnett.

"To achieve this peak performance, with a beautiful blend of colours at exactly the right time is no mean feat and is based on many years of research and practical experience at the University of Sheffield."

As millions of people across the world tune into the opening ceremony, University of Sheffield graduate, Ewan Ashburn, 24, will take to the stage as a percussionist.

Ewan, who graduated with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, said: "It will be the biggest gig I will ever do in my life and it all comes from the University of Sheffield teaching me to take every opportunity life brings."

Psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters from the University of Sheffield will be on hand to assist a host of British athletes through the performance of their lives through his therapy.

Known as the 'brain mechanic' Dr Peters has helped Olympic champion track cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, swimmer Lizzie Simmonds, Taekwondo world champion Sarah Stevenson and judo player Karina Bryant.

Physiotherapist Hayley Mount-Leonard, 28, was absolutely ecstatic to be given the once in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with international athletes trackside.

Hayley, who has a Masters of Science in Sports Injury Management and Rehabilitation from the University of Sheffield, was selected from 7,000 hopefuls worldwide.

The legacy of the Olympic Games will continue in Sheffield long after the closing ceremony due to the innovative £10 million Olympic Sports Medicine Centre – the country's first ever National Sports and Exercise Medicine Centre of Excellence.

Olympic funding will help develop one of three hubs in the city, which will be made up of three network partners, including the University, and will promote sport and exercise medicine across the country.

Notes for Editors: With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK's leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.

The University's research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.

For further information please contact: Amy Pullan, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2229859 or email a.l.pullan@sheffield.ac.uk