Rowing: Dorney Lake hosts World Cup debut

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The Independent Online

World Cup rowing comes to Britain for the first time next year when Dorney Lake at Eton will host the first regatta of the Beijing Olympiad on 26 to 28 May. The regatta is the only sports event staged at an official London Olympic site before the IOC makes its choice between London, Madrid, Paris and New York for the 2012 Games. It will also be a dry run for the organisers of the World Championships on the same course in 2006.

World Cup rowing comes to Britain for the first time next year when Dorney Lake at Eton will host the first regatta of the Beijing Olympiad on 26 to 28 May. The regatta is the only sports event staged at an official London Olympic site before the IOC makes its choice between London, Madrid, Paris and New York for the 2012 Games. It will also be a dry run for the organisers of the World Championships on the same course in 2006.

The three-day regatta is expected to attract crews from more than 30 countries and will allow Lord Coe and Sir Steve Redgrave to promote the Olympic delights of London, even if Eton is the opposite extreme of the capital from Stratford.

UK Sport put in £1.5m of Lottery money to support the World Cup and the World Championships. It will be the first time that the full British rowing team, which won Olympic gold medals at the last five Games, has competed at home on an Olympic course for nearly 20 years.

The challenge facing Mike Baldwin, the chairman of the organising committee, is how to attract spectators. Watching the second World Cup regatta from an empty stand on a grey day at Munich's vast Olympic rowing stadium, he said: "We must bring young kids in for raw excitement, as they did in Poznan three weeks ago. One criticism of Britain is lack of experience in organising big events."

Dorney Lake, created by Eton College by selling gravel from meadowland beside the Thames, is nearing completion to serve as a 2,000m, eight-lane rowing course to Olympic standard. It already hosts domestic regattas and was the venue for Redgrave's triumphal testimonial event after winning his fifth Olympic gold in Sydney.

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