By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
The 2012 Olympic Games may be being held in London, but Manchester is playing its part with preparations for athletes and venues across the city well under way.
Competitors across several sports will be representing Greater Manchester and several have good prospects of bringing back medals.
Didsbury’s 400m individual and relay sprinter Andrew Steele is a veteran of the Beijing Games and is gunning for gold on home soil.
He said: “First and foremost I want to win the individual event. Every athlete is the same.”
Steele just missed out on a medal in Beijing, with Team GB finishing fourth. He is determined to get on the podium next year to compensate.
“Coming fourth in in Beijing was a double-edged sword really. You often hear athletes say fourth is the worst place to finish. I didn’t believe it until it happened to me,” he said.
He has missed a lot of the 2011 season due to illness, after being struck down with glandular fever. Due to this, he estimates the top 5% of his talent has gone untapped this season.
He said: “Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify for the World Championships in Korea. I had to watch it from home which isn’t great.”
However, he is determined to make up for it with a good showing next year.
“I hope to get back to my PB at 400m – sub 45 seconds, and medal in both the singles and relay competitions,” he said.
Steele is also a firm believer that expectations of home success will help, not hinder Team GB competitors.
“People talk about the pressure but it leads to better results. It’s great for Britain to host the Olympics,” he said.
Steele will face tough competition from 2008 champion LaShawn Merritt and Grenadian Kirani James who beat Merritt to the gold in Daegu in August.
While handball is relatively unknown in Great Britain, the sport’s heritage in the country began here, with the first club being set up in Salford.
Great Britain’s Ciaran Williams currently plays in Norway but began his career with Salford, before moving to the Bundesliga in Germany, one of Europe’s top handball competitions.
He returned to Salford for the playoffs earlier this year.
Ciaran first skippered Great Britain last year and has since passed on that mantle to goalkeeper Bobby White.
He said: “It’s the biggest honour I could ever have, on the grandest stage, but also knowing that I am representing Salford and Manchester.”
Team GB are not expected to trouble the medals next year but Williams is hopeful that the sport’s legacy will grow following the Games.
If you’ve not seen handball before, the official test event is happening in November as the newly built Handball Arena in the Olympic Park hosts a women’s international invitational tournament.
Manchester’s stadia and sports venues are also getting in on the act.
Old Trafford will host seven football matches across the men’s and women’s competitions, including semi-finals for both sexes.
The National BMX Centre at Eastlands has recently opened and cyclists including Olympic test event winner Shanaze Reade will be using the track ahead of the contest next August.
The Ameachi Centre in Whalley Range will play host to the American basketball team as they try to defend their multiple Olympic gold medals.
Keep an eye out for our round up of Greater Manchester’s medal hopes.