Olympic Park reaches its active tipping point
LONDON, August 16,2011 -Tuesday will see a tip-off in the first competitive sports event in the complex which will be hosting the world of sport this time next year.
The venue is the £42m ‘egg-box’ arena which was the first to be delivered by the Olympic Development Authority and which will be dismantled, packed up and shipped off in bits and pieces once the 2012 circus has left town.
In the meantime Britain’s basketball players such as Joel Freeland and Euston-born Drew Sullivan can barely contain themselves at the prospect of an impossible dream: playing for the first British team to compete in Olympic basketball since 1948.
No grand fanfare, no clash of cymbals or roll of a thousand drummers but that does not diminish the significance of the event which Australia and China will set under way: The London International Basketball Invitational.
Tickets have been selling briskly rather, one suspects, because of the opportunity to enter the hitherto publicly-inaccessible Olympic Park than to cheer on any of the six nations bringing a sprinkling of NBA players to compete in the latest test event for next year’s summer Games.
This is the crucial factor separating basketball – and next week’s BMX competition - from all the other tests thus far which have included equestrian (in Greenwich), sailing (Weymouth), triathlon (Hyde Park), beach volleyball (Horse Guards Parade), badminton (Wembley Area) marathon swimming (the Serpentine) and road cycling (London and Surrey).
Somehow, with no disrespect to the other sports, seeing the Olympic Park confronting its first ‘live’ start is a signal that the 2012 Games are entering a new phase of competitive sporting lift-off.
David Luckes, head of sport competition with organiser LOCOG, sees the practicalities of the basketball as an important initial test for event technology, for organizational inter-communication as well as for overall accreditation and security procedures.
The debriefing programme, as for the other events, is already scheduled for the post-event hours and days – rather than weeks and months.
Luckes spoke of “pride” at the imminent event, a word which was picked up by Team GB’s players. After this event they go on to the European Championship where their performance level should be sharpened by the ambition of being picked to return to the Olympic Park . . . this time next year.