THEY will be met by a piper as they step off the plane, followed by a civic reception, a tour of the city and evening of music, food and entertainment.
More than 20 years after Scotland embraced the Cameroon international football team – nicknamed Les Lions Indomptable, the Indomitable Lions – when they played the auld enemy, England, in the World Cup, athletes from the West African country will be taken to the hearts of the nation again with the arrival of its Olympic squad.
The 60-strong squad will fly into Aberdeen tomorrow for a two-week training session at the Aberdeen Sports Village and the £11 million Robert Gordon University (RGU) sport centre.
Although most teams will be based in England in the run-up to the 2012 Games, the Cameroonians will not be the only ones preparing north of the Border. The GB swimming squad is training in Edinburgh while athletes from Zambia and Namibia have used sports facilities in Glasgow. A lone athlete from the tiny US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean has chosen Stirling as his base.
The African athletes’ stay in Aberdeen will climax with an international challenge match between the Cameroon Women’s Olympic Football team and the Scottish women’s team at the Chris Anderson Stadium on 15 July. RGU Sport’s director Filippo Antoniazzi believes the Africans will be the first of many to make use of the city’s state-of-the-art facilities.
He said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure the Cameroon squad has a great time here and that will give us a track record of hosting international teams.
“Aberdeen is a vibrant city with fantastic facilities and I expect much bigger nations to be showing an interest in coming here in future.”
However, Dr Innocent Bakam, a Cameroonian academic who moved to the north-east of Scotland six years ago, claimed his compatriots may initially feel like donning scarves and gloves rather than running gear. He said: “Even in the middle of summer it is still very cold for us.
“We keep the heating on and use hot water bottles even when it is very warm for Aberdonians. But we are very excited about the arrival of the Cameroon team and they will get a very warm welcome, regardless of the weather.”
Meanwhile, Stirling University is preparing to host a member of one of the smallest Olympic squads. Freestyle swimmer Branden Whitehurst, 22, who is one of seven athletes representing the tiny US Virgin Islands in London, will train at Scotland’s National Swimming Academy.
Andrei Cross, a postgraduate sports coaching student at Stirling who represented Barbados at the 2008 Games in Beijing, is looking forward to welcoming and offering advice to his fellow Caribbean competitor later this month.
He said: “Four years ago I was in the same position as Branden so can imagine what he is going through. At this stage it’s about finding the balance between work, recovery and preparing mentally.”
Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool has been chosen as the training camp for Team GB’s swimmers as they prepare for the Games.
British Swimming selected the pool ahead of venues in London and overseas following the pool’s £40 million refurbishment and athletes will be based there between 18 and 24 July.
Michael Scott, the national performance director with British Swimming, said: “We carried out an exhaustive search, both home and abroad, to identify the best possible environment for our camp and chose Edinburgh for all that it has to offer at this crucial time in the lead up to London.
“Edinburgh is providing the team with fantastic access to a world-class aquatics facility and this historic city lends itself to a relaxed, low-key training camp at a very high-pressure time.”
Earlier this year delegations from Zambia and Namibia arrived in Glasgow to take part in high-performance training camps ahead of the games.
The African athletes used the Palace of Art Centre for Sport Excellence in Bellahouston Park, the Glasgow School of Sport, and Scotstoun stadium, the National Badminton Academy. When it comes to actual competition, the national stadium at Hampden will host eight Olympic football matches; three men’s group games, four women’s group matches and one women’s quarter final, during the world’s largest sporting event.
The 1990 game in France ended with a 3-2 English win.