London Prepares: Hockey

6th May 2012, The Riverbank Arena

The Visa International Invitational Hockey Tournament test event at the Riverbank Arena in the Olympic Park concluded on Sunday on 6th May in front of a near capacity crowd with the Great Britain women’s team beating Argentina 2-0 to win Gold in front of the raucous home crowd.

The test event was hosted and run by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympics Games (LOCOG) and used to test sports activities, timing and scoring, technology and venue operations. As well as being a competitive preparatory event for the teams competing, the event was also used by volunteers, this reviewer included, as training to deliver similar roles during the Olympics. During the Olympics up to 70,000 volunteers from the length and breadth of the country will be involved in some capacity during the Olympics.

The cheerful professional efficiency of the volunteers over the weekend has to be applauded from the volunteers outside Stratford Station with the giant sized foam hands pointing to the direction of the Olympic Park to the speed in which security scanned spectators into the Olympic Park.

But with eight of the top teams in the world of hockey the event was an important sporting event in its own right. In the men’s tournament, Great Britain finished third, ahead of India and behind winners Germany, who beat Australia 5-2 in the men’s final contested by the current two best teams in the world and favorites for the upcoming London Olympics.

Spectators new to Hockey (as I was), will have been impressed by the speed and competitiveness of the matches. On the basis of this tournament it’s safe to say Hockey will be one of the more popular events during the Olympics.

The Riverbank Arena, with its distinctive pitch, will be the first Olympic Hockey venue to have used a blue pitch, and the 16,000 seat capacity Arena the 2nd largest venue in the Olympic Park. Saturday and Sunday’s games attracted 12,000 plus spectators on each day, giving an indication that a partisan crowd cheering Great Britain during the Olympics when the venue is full,  will generate a very good atmosphere for the players.

The Olympic Park, which has been transformed from 2.5 square kilometres of Industrial land into green space and is home to eight venues – including the iconic Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre, Riverbank Arena and the Velodrome – is an impressive and unexpectedly vast site  which will  undoubtedly provide an  enjoyable environment for the spectator experience during the Olympics.

As a tournament and test event is was a resounding success which can only bode well for the upcoming London 2012 Olympics.

Kenny Palmer

With echoes of Glory from the words of Bruce Springsteen to Danny Blanchflower, The Substantive Columnist Mel Gomes’ new e-book Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley’ is now available to download from Amazon and Smashwords, documenting high-level football and the journey of travelling around Europe in a sport where money is now valued alongside trophies. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.