Weymouth Bay holds 2012 Olympics test event


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The Independent Online

The town, so far, has been luke-warm about hosting the Olympic Games. There are notable exceptions but local residents have been complaining bitterly about life, and dog walking, being disrupted by creating a spectator area, and attempts to screen any nearby houses from enjoying a free view.

But, Weymouth Bay bathed itself in sunshine to welcome teams from 66 countries to one of the furthest Olympic venues from London for a full-blown test event ahead of the real thing in 12 months’ time.

According to LOCOG (the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Game) all the tickets, 5,500 a day, have been sold for next year on an area known locally as The Nothe. The event has started slowly, not least because of light winds, and will not be in full swing until the weekend with the medal-deciding races at the end of the second week.

Just as importantly, the legacy factor, so beloved of the bid committee, has quietly already been running for the last couple of years. Every week hundreds of children, local and from outside the region, troop through the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, sometimes to sail, sometimes to kayak, sometimes just to take to the water. They will continue to do so long after the Games are over.

There will be medals for the 10 Olympic sailing disciplines, but more important for many will be the establishment, or re-establishment, of a pecking order and a consolidation of making their case for selection in 2012.

In Britain’s case, the fight is on to improve even further on the six medals, four golds, a silver and a bronze, won last time in China, though Olympic manager Stephen Park, know by everyone as Sparky, is happy to dampen over-blown expectations by saying that the target is just four.

In fact, the strong squad which is Skandia Team GBR has long dreamed of being the first to emulate the Americans in 1984 when they won a medal in every event.

Always heading the list are a singlehander who will be going for his fourth consecutive gold and fifth consecutive medal, Ben Ainslie, and the man he succeeded in the heavyweight singlehander, Iain Percy, who went on from winning gold in the Finn is 2000 to winning another in the Star keelboat in 2008.

Percy, with crew Andrew Simpson, can almost order their blazers now as there is no rival to them and, as host country, Britain does not have to qualify competitively.

Ainslie’s rivals, current world champion Ed Wright and current European champion Giles Scott, must be praying that selection is held open until the world championships of sailing in Perth in December.

That Ainslie beat them both to win the British place this week at the Sail for Gold Regatta in early June and is plastered all over posters in London’s main airports, can hardly improve their morale. Britain has too much talent at the same time and Ainslie is as fierce a competitor in his way as Sir Steve Redgrave in rowing. To equal his five golds is a powerful incentive..

What Weymouth and the team run by Rob Andrews is also keen to display is a talent for organisation that has already had two opportunities to learn the characteristics of the venue, plus has years of experience running international sailing events in Weymouth. No complaints from the competitors so far.