The Princess Royal was in Birmingham yesterday, to officially open the Sport & Fitness Club at the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston, and also to attend the Pony Club annual conference.
Princess Anne was welcomed to the traditional ‘red brick’ university by its Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Eastwood, and shown around the new facility.
Zena Wooldridge, Director of Sport at the University, took The Queen’s daughter around, and showed her the new building and equipment, including a new 50m (olympic-size) swimming pool, the fitness studios, and climbing wall.
Anne also met a variety of students and athletes including para-swimmers, squash scholars and student sport teams, as well as sports staff on the tour.
The Sport and Fitness club actually opened to staff, students and the public back in spring 2017, but it was the Royal’s job to officially mark the occasion. The University of Birmingham has a long-standing reputation for its sports teams, being ranked in the country’s top 10 institutions for sport. Athletes such as Lily Owsley MBE (gold medallist in women’s hockey at Rio 2016) studies Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences and competes for the University in the women’s hockey premier league.
Following the tour, The Princess Royal attended a reception in the building, where she had a chance to meet with more staff, students, alumni and national sporting leaders and dignitaries.
At the reception, both the Vice Chancellor and the Princess spoke to assembled guests, after which Anne unveiled a plaque. In her speech, the Royal praised the centre’s in supporting Birmingham’s successful bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood said: “It was an honour and a privilege to welcome Her Royal Highness to our major new sports centre.
“This facility, together with our world-class team of trainers and sports experts, reflects Birmingham’s status as one of the top universities for sport in the UK.”
Director of Sport Zena Wooldridge said: “Having been Director of Sport at the University for 15 years, it has been so exciting to see this fantastic facility go from an idea, to plans, to construction and opening. Its first months since opening have been tremendously successful, with many hundreds of students, staff and community members using these unparalleled facilities.”
Just down the road at Edgbaston Stadium, the cricket ground, Anne then attended the Annual Conference as patron of The Pony Club.
The Pony Club is an international voluntary youth organisation, which seeks to encourage young people to ride and to care for horses and ponies, but also promote ‘the highest ideals of sportsmanship’. It has about 50,000 members in the UK.
Of course, Princess Anne is a keen rider herself – just like The Queen – and competed in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and holds a number of other equine-related patronages, such as Riding for the Disabled.
— The Pony Club (@ThePonyClub) March 5, 2018
The Royal – wearing a horse brooch – spoke briefly at the conference, and other guests included comedian, Rory Bremner, and inspirational speakers such as Claire Lomas (paralysed in 2007, she walked the London Marathon in 2012 with the help of a robotic suit), and informational talks like vaccination and flu in horses, and YouTubing horse-related videos.
The conference’s focus for the year, however, was growth and new membership.
That evening, The Princess Royal returned to London to attend the Chief Scientific Officer Healthcare Science Awards and dinner at The Royal Society. The evening was to celebrate the contribution that healthcare scientists make to improve patient outcomes.