Horse Guards Parade on Whitehall will be transformed into a giant sandpit for the purposes of the in-demand beach volleyball competition, reportedly among the top 3 sports in terms of ticket applications. Greenwich Park is to host the world’s elite equestrian competitors in the shadow of Queen’s House and the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich will see the archery and shooting of the modern pentathlon.
But perhaps the most exciting choice of all is that quintessentially British corner of north-west London, Lord’s Cricket Ground, as the venue to hold the archery.
Lord’s Cricket Ground has been located in at its current site in leafy St John’s Wood since 1814, with its historic Grade II* listed Pavilion opening in 1890. The Ground, which is universally recognised as the Home of Cricket oozes history from the Old Father Time weather vane to the Pavilion’s Long Room and Museum which is custodian of cricket’s most prized artefact: the Ashes Urn.
Archery seems to go hand in hand with this rich heritage, having been labelled the world’s oldest sport. While organised competitive archery is thought to have started in China around 3,000 years ago, the practice dates all the way back to the Mesolithic era of 10,000 BC, when arrows were fashioned from pine and flint.
“We have been planning the use of Lord’s (in conjunction with the MCC) since the bid in 2003,” said Hilda Gibson, Archery Services Manager for the London Olympic Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, or LOCOG as it is more commonly known.
She continued: “Lord’s has a great fit with Archery and the space is perfect for the sport. Lord’s was chosen as a venue due to its iconic nature, and as part of London’s bid we always promised to use existing sporting venues. The MCC wanted to be part of the world’s largest sporting event and wanted to showcase Lord’s to a non cricket audience.”
Despite its place in the annals of sport, Lord’s has not struggled to make the transition into the modern stadium era. The J.P. Morgan Media Centre is a shining example of how ultra-modern can co-exist with historic features. Facing the Pavilion across the hallowed turf of cricket’s most famous outfield, the space-age style venue, the world’s only single-shell aluminium building, acts as a state-of-the-art base for international media, as well as a popular choice for meetings & events.
This trend is not just exclusive to the J.P. Morgan Media Centre. Non-match day events at the Ground now account for a large amount of annual turnover, drawing a wide variety of events; from black tie gala dinners in the esteemed Pavilion, alfresco cocktail receptions in the Harris Garden and exhibitions for the wine industry in the expansive Nursery Pavilion.
Up to 5,000 spectators are expected to attend each archery session over the course of the Games and additional temporary structures will be used in the conversion of Lord’s for its use as an Olympic venue.
Gibson explained: “Temporary stands will be constructed at Games time to bring the spectators as close to the action as possible. This enables them to see both the archers and the targets and to share in the tension and excitement as each match progresses. This is a requirement for the International Olympic Committee and also enhances the spectator experience.”
Aside from temporary stands set up on the outfield, the Ground will also provide an archery range; a warm-up range, administration areas for officials, registration areas for athletes and media facilities.
There will be four gold medals up for grabs, with 128 athletes competing in the discipline which will run from 27 July to 3 August 2012 from 9am – 6pm. There will be two sessions a day.
Archers will shoot over the square towards the J.P. Morgan Media Centre, allowing for the stunning backdrop of the Pavilion behind the competitors. Lord’s is taking its responsibility as an Olympic venue seriously with no international cricket being played from the beginning of July as it prepares for the Games, before returning the venue to its typical purpose as a world class cricket venue once the archery is complete.
Replacement grass is currently being grown ready for the post-event operation, which will see the square being restored by ground staff after it has supported the weight of the heavy temporary structures.
There will be plenty of candidates for the Games’ most memorable venue, from track and field in the Olympic Stadium itself to the triathlon in Hyde Park, but Lord’s is sure to conjure up some unforgettable images with its unique mix of the past, present and future.