Liam Killeen, David Fletcher, Kenta Gallagher and Lily Matthews from the Great Britain Cycling Team took to the 2012 Olympic mountain bike course at Hadleigh Farm, Essex for the first time today as the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), Essex County Council and The Salvation Army marked the completion of the course construction works on time and on budget.
Construction of the course began in July 2010 with four full time staff members and one timber expert, and work on the course is officially complete in advance of the Test Event scheduled for July 31, 2011. During construction, 500 tons of rock and 3,500 tons of crushed stone were used to create the course. The course was launched last fall, when some riders and the media had a chance to preview it while still under construction.
The 2012 Olympic Games venue covers a 550-acre site, encompassing farmland owned by The Salvation Army and the adjacent Country Park. It is being delivered by Essex County Council in partnership with LOCOG.
The 5km circuit is situated on open hillside as opposed to a forested venue more typical of mountain biking events. The open venue will facilitate spectating - large sections of the course will be visible from many locations across the site. It has been designed to provide a physical and technical challenge for the world's leading mountain bikers in 2012.
The course includes the yet to be named climbs, rocky descents and north-shore timber framed structures which will provide opportunities for riders to take advantage of their technical abilities throughout the races. Multiple options have been created with varying degrees of difficulty at a number of the obstacles where the ability of the riders will be thoroughly tested.
"The excitement of competing in a home Games is building fast and seeing the finished course whets the appetite even more," said Killeen. "It's a challenging course that will bring out the best in everyone and should make for a fantastic race for both the riders and spectators."
During the preview, riders were joined by Sebastian Coe, Chair of LOCOG, Stephen Castle Essex County Council Cabinet Member for 2012 Games and Major John Warner, the Hadleigh 2012 Co-ordinator for The Salvation Army.
"I am very grateful to Essex County Council and to The Salvation Army for their hard work in making this venue happen," said Coe. "The course is challenging with multiple climbs and descents for the riders to tackle and I believe that the mountain bike competition will be one of the most exciting events at the London 2012 Olympic Games."
"I am extremely proud that construction work on the London 2012 Olympic mountain bike course has been completed on time, said Castle. "We are committed to delivering a first class London 2012 Olympic discipline and a course that will test the world's finest mountain bike riders. It is fantastic to see the course being tested by members of the GB Cycling Team as we move closer to our Olympic dream becoming a reality.’
A separate legacy plan is being developed by Essex County Council for how the venue will be used following the 2012 Games. The course was constructed on land owned by The Salvation Army, which also includes a farm, rare breeds centre and the Hadleigh Employment Training Centre for people with special needs and the long-term unemployed. As Hadleigh Farm is an operating farm, the mountain bike venue is not open to the public. Trainees who helped to create information display boards about the course were on hand today to help unveil them in the designated viewing area for visitors.
"The Salvation Army has been at Hadleigh Farm for more than a century and is delighted to be working with LOCOG, Essex County Council and others to enable the Olympic mountain biking event to take place on Salvation Army land," said Major John Warner.
Schools in Essex, Southend and Thurrock are able to take part in Essex County Council's "name the feature" competition to decide the name for four of the features on the course. Pupils from Hadleigh Junior School joined the event today to see the site first hand and receive their Get Set Network certificate to mark their work on using the Olympic and Paralympic values throughout the life of their school, as part of the London 2012 education programme. The name the feature competition is open until April 28.
Eighty total athletes, 50 men and 30 women, will compete in the Olympic cross country race. According to the schedule, the women will race at 14:30 on Saturday, August 11, 2012, and the men will race at 15:30 on Sunday, August 12, 2012.
For more information on tickets, visit www.tickets.london2012.com.