London 2012 slalom canoeing venue opens at Lee Valley
Ride the new 2012 Olympic slalom canoe course
By Ollie Williams
The Princess Royal has unveiled the Lee Valley White Water Centre, the first brand new venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games to be completed.
The £31m project, which incorporates the 2012 Olympic slalom canoe course, was finished on schedule and will be open to the public from April 2011.
Britain's top canoeists have exclusive use of the facilities until that time.
"I've been waiting for this course for such a long time - it's absolutely brilliant," said GB's Richard Hounslow.
Until now, World bronze medallist Hounslow and his British team-mates had trained at Nottingham's
We now have in Britain the best white water stadium in the world
Paul Owen British Canoe Union
But the entire squad will now move from Nottingham to Hertfordshire and base themselves at
ahead of London 2012, offering what could prove a crucial home advantage.
"Our programme has chosen to relocate and, personally, I think that's a brilliant idea," said Hounslow.
"To train here day in, day out, will be so good for us.
"After April [once the course opens to the public] other international teams can relocate here if they want to, but I can't see it happening, so for us it'll be a really big advantage."
The venue, near Waltham Cross, will be operated by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and will offer the public rafting and canoeing facilities, on both the main 300m Olympic course and a separate 160m intermediate run.
Temporary stands will allow up to 12,000 spectators to watch the Olympic events in 2012, with hopes high for a British medal after
David Florence won silver
at the Beijing Games in 2008.
The £31m course was completed in just under 18 months
"The completion of the White Water Centre - on budget and over 18 months before the Games - is a huge milestone," said John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority.
"As the first brand new 2012 venue we have finished, it is a clear sign of the early legacy the Games are already delivering."
Construction at the site began in July 2009 and has involved more than 150 workers.
The course uses enough material in its banks, obstacles and venue landscaping to fill the Royal Albert Hall, while canoeists must navigate a drop in height of 5.5m from start to finish.
"The biggest thing about the course is the amount you can change it," Hounslow told BBC Sport.
"There's a new system which means you can put obstacles wherever you want - you don't want to build a course out of concrete and then find something doesn't quite work.
"Here, we can tweak things until we have the perfect configuration.
"And it's just fun. It's a little bit cold in this temperature, but it's great fun. In 25 years it will still be a very good course."
British Canoe Union chief executive Paul Owen said: "We now have in Britain the best white water stadium in the world.
"We look forward to providing a sensational event for the 2012 Olympic Games in a venue with a lasting legacy."
Weymouth - where the sailing events will take place - was the first venue to be completed after London won its Olympic bid, but work largely involved enhancing pre-existing facilities - whereas Lee Valley is an entirely new development.
Olympic organisers expect the velodrome to be the next completed venue, early in 2011, followed by the Olympic Stadium.
LONDON 2012 SLALOM CANOEING VENUE
Facts and figures for the 300m Olympic course:
Up to 15 cubic metres (3,300 gallons) of water per second recirculated through course - enough to fill a 25m swimming pool in 30 seconds
Height drop of up to 5.5m from start to finish
Water speed through course in excess of 7mph in places
Boat conveyor transports participants to the start without leaving their rafts or canoes
Buildings on site include reception, cafe, changing rooms, admin offices, spectator viewing facilities and water pump/filtration plant
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