London, England
Saturday 5th May 2012

Last night was the first time the public got to see an official athletics competition in the new Olympic Stadium, as the British University & Colleges Sports Athletics Championships got underway.  The weekend is the first test event scheduled for the venue, as health & safety certificates are earned & various systems are audited.

This was actually the third time I have seen the facility, toured the indoor areas, walked the track & now I have just about made up my own, personal opinion as to whether it is an example of outstanding architectural genius or somewhat of a flop.  I know what you’re hoping that I’ll say but to be totally honest, I’m a little disappointed.

Why?  Well, for one, it is a circular stadium & as a result the footprint is massive, yet the height of the stands doesn’t impose itself on the field, or track, of play.  In fact, the 100m straight is at least 20m away from the first row of seats & as a result, I think it will be difficult to create an intimidating atmosphere unless the venue is packed to the rafters.  On the plus side, this may be less daunting for the athletes come July & performance anxiety might not be as much of an issue as it is in an arena such as the Bird’s Nest in China.

This has other implications beyond the Olympics, in that if it is ever used as a football stadium, the pitch will be so far from the stands, a seat on the half way line will probably come with a free pair of binoculars!  It must, however, be remembered that at a fraction over £130 million, the build costs are about a quarter of those reportedly shelled out for Wembley Stadium.

Furthermore, the distance of the warm-up track (& first call) to the stadium (plus final call & indoor warm-up area) is fairly substantial – though athletes, will be delighted to hear that electric buggies will be on hand to transport them between the two…coaches, however, will be less enthused at the news that they will have to walk!

On the other hand, the athletes are pleased with the track (looks like a fast one); the runways & boards for the horizontal jumps pits (again, expect to see some stellar results here); plus the fact that the final call area has toilets!!!

As for the BUCS Championships themselves, the organisers had sold their maximum allocation of tickets, meaning that an attendance of 40,000 will be by far the largest for such an event.  Whilst the weather forecast wasn’t holding much promise for a sun-soaked weekend of action, the line-up for some of the races, especially the potential for a real shoot-out in the men’s 100m final, should mean that the interest is rewarded with a fantastic spectacle.

As for my personal involvement, I fly out to Monte Gordo, Portugal, on Monday for a warm weather training camp, so I was allocated the Friday evening slot to cover the UK Athletics funded athletes & then am free to celebrate the remainder of my birthday weekend in the company of several good friends before flying out to (hopefully) sunnier climes.

If you were at the test event, please leave your thoughts & opinions on the Olympic Stadium in the “Comments” box below.

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