Since the £31 million Lee Valley Whitewater centre was completed in 2010 many of the athletes, together with their coaches and managers have spent much time familiarizing themselves with this stunning venue including a test event one year ago. The first heats start in only 4 days time.
The overall site is essentially split into four key areas: front of house which is where 12,000 spectators a day will be able to watch the canoe slalom heats, semi-finals or finals; the field of play which represents the slalom course on which the athletes are competing; the back of house where several hundred accredited officials, including the Games Maker volunteers will be busy ensuring a smooth running event and the mixed zone where the accredited media can come together with the athletes. Paul Valkovics, Venue General Manager for Lee Valley, in an interview for the ICF said that the purpose built venue “has been designed to give the athletes the best possible facilities to perform at their best and provide every spectator in the house a close up view of the action”.
In the back of house area, each of the 30 National Federations is provided with their own Team Tent covered area. Here the 83 athletes can relax with their own team to stretch, sleep, mentally prepare and talk to their coaches and managers. Each is furnished with tables chairs, mats and fridges. The Olympics are very different for these competitors given that with only one boat per class per nation they do not have the familiarity of a larger team with other competitors from their home nation and class as they would have at Worlds or World Cup races. Other facilities provided to the National Federations include changing facilities, provision for the athletes to get massages before and after their runs, catering and a boat repair facility available too if needed.
There is separate space for the athletes to hang their boats in slings and the whole venue is secure so that the teams and athletes can leave their equipment at the venue for the duration of the Games. The paddlers have a large 10,000 square metre lake on which to warm up in additional to a second shorter 160 metre intermediary/ warm up whitewater slalom course. When ready, a conveyor then carries the paddler in their boat from the lake up to the start pool holding area, where 5 large pumps provide 13 cubic litres of water a second.
The medical centre, equipment store, media and Technical Video Service are actually situated in the hill underneath the start pool! The teams are provided with TV monitors so that they can watch the live feed and review video of the runs. As discussed in judging yesterday and coaching on Monday video plays an important part in canoe slalom.
Come back tomorrow to learn what the ‘Ultimate Run’ may feel like. Comments @gregiej on Twitter.