Wednesday 27th July 2011 is a very significant day in the build up to the London 2012 Olympics – it is exactly one year until the start of what is being dubbed “The Greatest show on Earth.” The vibrant, multicultural city of London will be marking the date with celebrations and special events throughout the day. The anticipation and enthusiasm for the London 2012 Olympic Games cannot be under-estimated, with tickets for almost every event being sold at record speeds. In terms of ticket sales, hockey has been a massive success story, with well over half a million being sold.
With 365 days to go, FIH.ch caught up with Sue Catton, the person responsible for the planning, organisation and management of Hockey at the 2012 Games. In an exclusive interview, Sue gives us a full update on how everything is coming together.
FIH: Hi Sue, thank you for taking the time to talk to us! It is exactly one year to the day until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The excitement must really be starting to build for everyone working for LOCOG and also throughout the city of London. How are you feeling about planning the greatest show on earth?
Sue Catton: “Yes the excitement is certainly mounting and the pace of our planning and delivery is increasing also! Weeks are passing so quickly now at LOCOG, so we have to keep focused on our timelines and targets. But we are definitely on schedule with the venue build programme, and also on budget. The City of London is also gearing up and I’m sure there will be a fantastic British welcome and atmosphere throughout the Games.”
FIH: Are all the preparations going smoothly from your side?
SC: “Yes I'm very pleased with where we are positioned at this stage, with one year to go. I have a great team working on the event and we have been liaising closely with the FIH on an ongoing basis since the bid was won. At the beginning of July work started on installing both hockey pitches at the Hockey Centre and is also underway at the training venue, which is at Old Loughtonians Hockey Club. The designs and planning permission are all in place for the build programme for the temporary Hockey Centre to start in January 2012 and our planning is also well underway for the London Prepares Test Event in May 2012.”
FIH: Ticket sales for hockey at the London 2012 Olympics have been simply staggering, with over 600, 000 being sold. You must be eagerly anticipating the prospect of seeing matches taking place in front of a packed venue!
SC: “As the sport with the third highest number of tickets available for sale in the Olympic Games, behind Football and Athletics, I’m absolutely delighted with the response, but I’m not surprised at the level of interest! Whilst more Hockey tickets will become available later in the year there is no doubt that there will be a fantastic atmosphere in the Hockey Centre. With a capacity of 16,000 spectators per session the athletes are really going to be spurred on to perform at their best. With the noise coming out of the Hockey Centre, the only full outdoor venue on the Olympic Park, I’m really looking forward to the spectators making their mark too!”
FIH: The striking designs for both the stadium and the pitch colours have really turned a lot of heads and become real talking points. What is the thinking behind this and what impact do you think it will have?
SC: “We've received a lot of positive feedback about the new blue pitch and pink run-off areas since it was announced. However, in making such a big change we did consult widely before we agreed the ‘new look’ with the FIH. The time was definitely ripe for change in hockey, having been played on green surfaces since the sport first entered the Olympics in 1908 in London. Many other sports have moved to different colour surfaces that enhances the visibility of the ball for both spectators at the venue and a global TV audience, as well as for the players on the pitch. As one of 26 sports in the Olympics it is important that Hockey makes its mark. However, the number one objective is that the pitch works for the athletes, so a lot of planning is also going in to ensuring that not only do the pitches look good, but they play well and consistently across all our venues.”
FIH: We have heard rumours of something called "Hockey Hill" within the Olympic Park, a place where people can sit and watch the action outside the stadium. Tell us more!
SC: “The Olympic Park is already looking fantastic a year out with great landscaping and the River Lea running though the heart of it. You are right, just outside the Hockey Centre plans are in development for a 'Live Site' where it is hoped that there will be two large TV screens positioned in the middle of the river broadcasting action across all 32 venues. Whilst there clearly cannot be back to back coverage of Hockey on these screens, I'm sure it will offer a great place for hockey fans to meet and share in the atmosphere both before and after the Olympic hockey matches. Who knows what the Hill will be named by the end of the Games, but let's try and put a marker down for Hockey Hill!”
FIH: We understand that you are also overseeing Wheelchair Rugby at the Paralympics. Can you tell us more about it?
SC: “Yes, as Hockey is one of a number of Olympic sports that does not have a Paralympics equivalent, I was keen to be involved in the Paralympics having also worked in disability sport in the UK for over ten years. When I was given the chance the manage Wheelchair Rugby as well as Hockey, it was a dream job for me. Wheelchair Rugby is a relatively young Paralympic sport, only coming in as a demonstration sport in Sydney in 2000, but it’s really captured a lot of interest and profile within the movement very quickly. The game was invented in Canada and was initially known as Murder Ball. As the name suggests it is action packed, but also very tactical. It is played by tetraplegic athletes who have limited use of all their limbs. The top eight teams in the world will take part in the programme which runs over 5 days culminating on the final day of the Paralympic Games. It will be hosted in the Basketball Arena, also on Olympic Park, and many of our Hockey team will move on to deliver this event also.”
FIH: Finally, on a personal level, what is it like working on such an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime project such as this?
SC: “I do feel tremendously proud to have this opportunity and also very responsible, in partnership with the FIH, for ensuring that Hockey can maximise all the opportunities London 2012 brings to the sport. I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience; the momentum and passion from all involved is tremendous. Today I must admit to wondering how I will feel in 367 days time when that first ball is played at the Hockey Centre! After all, we have two extra days before Hockey starts! I’m perhaps a bit nervous but overall I’m very excited.”
Some more information about the exciting build-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games can be found at the links below.
BBC panoramic view of Olympic Park – Click here
Official London 2012 Site – Click here
* London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games
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