Is Eton Dorney on track for London 2012?

 

Eton Dorney

In the aftermath of the World Rowing Junior Championships, athletes and organisers have had plenty to say about how the London 2012 venue Eton Dorney coped under the glare of the world’s media.

With the 2011 WRJC being used as a test event ahead of London 2012, all eyes were on Dorney for five days of elite junior racing last week – and the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games have expressed their satisfaction at how the venue coped with the demands of an international event.

“This is a world class venue and it was important for us to test the venue and procedures for next year,” LOCOG sports director Debbie Jevans told More than the Games.

“We were specifically looking at the field of play, conditions on the lake, how the boat pontoons on the lake worked, how our temporary infrastructure worked and how we deal with changing weather and competition schedules.”

Eton Dorney has eight 2,000 metre lanes, and questions have been raised as to whether its exposure to the elements will prove problematic in inclement weather.

However, LOCOG Chairman Lord Coe is insistent that the WRJC has provided the perfect opportunity to examine these issues ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games.

“The reason you have a test event isn’t to walk away at the end and say ‘oh that was fine and we’ve got nothing to learn from it,’” said Lord Coe, during a visit to the WRJC on the penultimate day of racing.

“Good organisers want to know from the competitors, from the officials, and from the volunteers how it worked, how it can be improved, and what lessons can we learn a year away from a major championship.

“Everything that we can have under our control is in our control.

“This is a very good example of a sport that [delivers events] very well, and I think we will deliver a great Games next year.”

Eton Dorney

The impact of weather conditions remains a topic of discussion at Dorney Lake, but LOCOG Rowing Manager Ann Louise Morgan insists that all possible precautions will be taken to ensure minimal disruption to the Olympic schedule, should the weather take a turn for the worse.

“We’re an outdoor sport so we have to cope with the elements,” she said. “We’re sensitive to the wind conditions… but we can move races across by one lane in either direction and there are a series of processes that the international federation can put in place.

“In the worst case, we could be forced to go to time-trials. Obviously we don’t want that to happen… but we have tested that time trial situation here. We think that the conditions will be fairly good to us and hopefully that won’t happen, but it allows us to be prepared and we can cope with that if and when we get poor conditions.”

Whilst LOCOG is insistent that valuable lessons have been learnt ahead of next year’s Games, athletes and coaches from the 2011 WRJC have been queuing up to praise the organisation and facilities at what was a hugely successful event.

“This is one of the best courses in the world – it’s up there,” said Canadian rower Martin Barakso.

“All the facilities; the warm-up area, the course, the location, just everything is good.”

Will Kenworthy of the GB Rowing Team – a former Etonian – is used to rowing on Dorney Lake, but the 18-year-old was also impressed with the changes made to accommodate an Olympic Games.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic,” he said. “I’ve trained here for four years so it’s like home to me, but anybody else who you ask – it’s just an amazing facility and we’re incredibly lucky to have it.”

“Racing here has been fantastic just now… to see the big screens and the grandstand and that sort of thing; it’s got a whole new atmosphere. It’s a good venue, and it’s got a good feel about it.”

Eton Dorney

Question marks may still linger about whether Eton Dorney can cope with the 30,000 spectators due in 2012, but German coach Lothar Trawiel – who watched his junior team pick up a staggering 10 medals from 13 events – was more than happy with conditions on the water.

“The facilities are really good, there are no real improvements to be made,” he said of Dorney Lake. “Obviously it’ll look different at the Olympics – there will be bigger grandstands – but that won’t affect how it’s going to go in the boat area.”

Athletes at next year’s Olympics will be hosted in the residential buildings at Royal Holloway College, some 16km away from Eton Dorney – and Trawiel was particularly impressed by the accommodation on offer.

“I have been to several Olympic Games before, and I’ve never experienced the standard of accommodation as is present in the Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Village,” he added.

“The standard here hasn’t been matched before. It’s a great set-up; small, but still spacious, and very, very nice.”

For a closer look at the sights and sounds of the WRJC at Eton Dorney, see our photo gallery from the event.