Having covered several of the Olympic Test events at Excel on behalf of SportsNewsIreland I can but agree with
Debbie Jevans, Director of Sport for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) who described seven Olympic test events that took place at ExCeL London as a success.
This is the Arena in which several Irish boxers, for example, will aim for Olympic medals including John Joe Nevin, Michael Conlan, Darren O’Neill and hopefully, if she qualifies, Katie Taylor. For the 2012 Games the Arena will even be bigger and be able to accommodate many more spectators among whom will be a very considerable number of Irish fans .
Taylor will have huge support as the women’s bouts are on four specific days thus it was easier for Irish fans to seek tickets for those days and with only one likely Irish competitor than for the men’s spread over a two week period and with possibly seven or eight boxers and no way of telling which Irish boxers would be in action on a specific day. Same applies of course to GB boxers.
Debbie Jevans said: “This multi-sport venue is one of the most important and exciting Olympic venues and will be a hub of sporting activity at Games time, accommodating seven sports during the Olympic Games and six during the Paralympics, second only to the Olympic Park.
“The task of hosting so many sports in one venue was put to the test, delivering seven International sporting events over three consecutive weeks, and I’m pleased with the outcomes. We learnt some lessons that will further inform our operational planning for the Games.
The first week of competition in the London Prepares series events saw International Boxing, Table Tennis and Fencing come to ExCeL London testing workforce, field of play, lighting, results and scoring. Unique to Boxing was the introduction of corner cameras in the ring while in the Fencing arena floor lighting on the main piste, a new feature for the Olympic Games, was tested. Air flow was one of the main elements of focus at the Table Tennis competition.
Savannah Marshall from Great Britain, who won gold in the women’s boxing event, said: “It’s great to just get the feeling of the Games.” And Avak Uzlian, the Russian Light Welter boxer said: “It is a very good place, very organised and very comfortable for boxers. Everything here is very good.”
After a few days turnaround – emulating the exact same amount of time arenas will have at Games time – Judo and Taekwondo took their turn in the spotlight. In Judo a larger contest area (10 x 10m as opposed to 8 x 8m) was used, while in Taekwondo personal scoring systems and instant video replay systems were of interest to organisers.
Gold medallist and GB athlete Aaron Cook said of the Taekwondo event: “I am obviously delighted to have won gold. I’ve had a brilliant day, beating the world champion. It’s a massive, great venue and has give us a sample of what the Olympics will be like.”
During the final weekend of competition, and after another tight turnaround of the arenas, Weightlifting and Wrestling events took centre stage in ExCeL. A new podium platform which made its debut in the Weightlifting arena was received well and the transition of the field of play from Judo into Wrestling was a key testing element which took less than half the time than previously predicted.
Reece Humphery from the USA who won a bronze medal in the men’s freestyle wrestling (60kg) event said of ExCeL: “I love it I love everything about it. I haven’t had a chance to see the city because I’ve been focused on the competition but I’ll see the city tonight. This is going to be a perfect arena for the Olympics.”
Stephen Newport, LOCOG Venue General Manager of ExCeL said: “The London Prepares series has been vital for our whole team at ExCeL. Although the venue hosts many major events and conferences, we have had to test our transition of arenas and our teams in our largest temporary venue outside the Olympic Park. We will continue to observe large events at ExCeL to look at spectator flow and management, but we are happy with how the test events have run over the past three weeks.”