RICHMOND'S first role in the 2012 Olympic Games was announced this week as it was confirmed South African athletes will use the borough as a training camp.
In the run-up to the Games, the athletes will be based mainly at St Mary's University College and the Lensbury Club, but will also use other clubs and facilities across the borough.
The South African Sport Commission and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam said: "In line with all our planning for the 2012 Games and the run-in to London, it's absolutely critical we quickly identify the areas where we are going to train.
"So in this regard, we are delighted to announce St Mary's and the Lensbury Club as our choice of venue.
"It's important we get the support structures in place and also build and maintain sporting relationships in England that will benefit our athletes pre and post-2012.
"I must say that in the runup to the 2012 Games it's fantastic that we were able to identify a training camp venue so early on.
"It's very important that we do it right and get the athletes into the inter national atmosphere at an early stage and let them get used to their surroundings.
"They must be exposed to the international set-up.
"At the Beijing Olympics it was quite an eye-opener and I think some of the athletes were a bit overawed. Hopefully, these kind of camps will be a great help."
A committee from South Africa visited Richmond for three days in July as part of a tour of venues around the UK.
Chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, Sebastian Coe, also welcomed the news.
"This is great news for St Mary's," he said. "These facilities will help South African athletes train and prepare well for the Games.
"It also gives St Mary's and other world-class clubs in the area a chance to get involved in our plans in many different ways and feel the excitement for the Games."
St Mary's is no stranger to sporting success - past and present students include rower and cyclist Rebecca Romero, runners Andy Baddeley, Steph Twell and Mo Farah and rugby union star Simon Amor.