Geared up for games

Pictures Martin Bostock Katherine O'Connor of Poulton who has just been appointed the North West Business Lead for the 2012 Games
Pictures Martin Bostock Katherine O'Connor of Poulton who has just been appointed the North West Business Lead for the 2012 Games

KATHERINE O’Connor is determined the Olympics will bring money and success for the Fylde coast.

The Poulton resident’s new role as North West business leader for the 2012 Games sees her helping local firms obtain contracts for the big event and showcasing those who have already got contracts.

She says she is loving her new job. She was formerly partnership manager of tourism for the North West Regional Development Agency.

And Katherine says she hopes to get the message across that the 2012 Olympics are not just for London, but will reach everybody in the UK – including the Fylde coast.

The 54-year-old, who was born and grew up in Blackpool, said: “Local companies are already winning contracts for the 2012 Games, which will help keep jobs on the Fylde coast.

“There are things like Get Set in schools, and we have got people from the Fylde coast volunteering at the games, so there are lots of success stories and chances to get involved.

“Hopefully, people will get behind local athletes taking part like Shelly Woods.

“And of course, the torch relay will be coming through Blackpool, which is fantastic. “Hopefully, my job will help put the Fylde coast, Lancashire and the North West on the map.”

Katherine’s work has always involved promoting the Fylde coast, as she was manager of tourism and advertising in Blackpool for seven years.

Educated at Blackpool Collegiate and Blackpool and The Fylde College, she undertook part-time study while working, gaining a Diploma in Administrative Management at the University of Central Lancashire and, from Lancaster University Management School, an MA in Marketing Management and Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma.

She started working at 11 for her parents’ news agency business, and has previously worked for Trusthouse Forte Leisure and First Leisure Corporation.

She said: “I’m Blackpool-born and bred and am very proud of the Fylde coast and a proud Lancastrian. It’s so great to see companies from the region winning contracts for the 2012 Games and being showcased so they hopefully can procure contracts for other events.

“We have the Rugby League World Cup coming up in 2013 and, of course, the Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow in 2014.

“Part of my job is making sure businesses are ready – ready to supply what might be needed, but also ready for things like staff taking time off during the Olympics – for example, will firms on the route of the relay, allow their staff to have time off to watch as it goes past?

“We do have some businesses on the Fylde coast who have won contracts, but I can’t really talk about them yet.

“One of the companies is Glasdon, which makes recycling bins.”

One of the highlights of Katherine’s career has been the time she was chosen as the first of 25 community heroes to carry the 2002 Commonwealth Games baton through Blackpool on the 48th day of its journey across the UK.

So Katherine is urging residents to nominate local sporting heroes to carry the 2012 torch. Nominations have already been made for wheelchair athlete Dave Burns and Tricia Ellis, who set up an over 50s marathon-running club for women.

Katherine said: “Carrying the baton was an absolutely phenomenal experience. So I would really urge anybody thinking of nominating a local person, to make that nomination. It’s certainly an experience I’ve never forgotten.”