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Steve Ovett to unveil replacement statue on eve of 2012 games
3:40pm Tuesday 29th May 2012 in News
A statue to celebrate one of Sussex’s most famous Olympians will be unveiled on the eve of the London 2012 games.
City businessmen have come together and paid £50,000 for a permanent reminder to be created of Steve Ovett, who won 800m gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
The life-size bronze cast, which will stand near the finishing line of the Brighton Marathon in Madeira Drive, Brighton, is set to be unveiled by the Brighton-born middle-distance runner a day before the Olympics start in July.
Those behind the artwork hope it can serve as an inspiration to tens of thousands of people to take up sport in the city.
Ovett, who now lives in Australia, is due to come to the city on July 24 to unveil the statue.
Organisers are hopeful he could be joined by his running rivals of the era, Steve Cram and Lord Coe.
Chris Gargan, Ned McDonnell and Ted Ratcliffe, of Kingspan (KSD), are among those to have donated money to create the statue.
Mr Gargan said: “It’s a way for us to honour one of the city’s most famous Olympic sons.
“He has had a big impact on a lot of people in the city.
“Steve mentored hundreds of kids by visiting schools in the city.
“He visited us at my school |and inspired us all, including |my friend John O’Brian, who went |on to break the Sussex sprint |records.
“We have eight weeks to get everything together in time, but we should be able to do it.”
A bronze statue to Ovett, who was educated at Varndean, School in Brighton, used to stand in Preston Park. However, it was cut down and stolen in September 2007.
No one was prosecuted for the incident, although it is believed the statue was melted down and sold.
The artist behind the original sculpture, Brighton-based Pete Webster, has been tasked with creating the new statue.
Mr Webster told The Argus he is using all that remained of the original – a shin, a leg and four other unrecognisable pieces – to create the replacement.
It will be on a stone plinth about 1.5 metres high.
A planning application for permission to put up the statue has been submitted by Dowsett Mayhew Planning Partnership.
The proposed seafront site has been chosen with the support of Brighton and Hove City Council.
Approval is expected in the coming weeks.