The spectacular London 2012 Aquatics Centre has played host to its first major sporting event, as the venue welcomed over 250 of the world’s best divers for the 18th FINA Diving World Cup from 20-26 February. The competition formed part of the London Prepares series of events and was an important part of preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games.
The event allowed the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) to test key elements of the venue operations and logistics such as lighting, results, scoring, workforce and timing, while also providing an ideal opportunity for athletes and team officials to compete at the venue ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games and offer feedback on LOCOG’s plans.
The sporting action saw China underline its dominance in the pool as its divers won all eight events, with reigning Olympic champions He Chong (men’s 3m springboard), Qin Kai (men’s synchronised 3m springboard), Chen Ruolin (women’s 10m platform and synchronised 10m platform) and Wu Minxia (women’s synchronised 3m springboard) all tasting victory in London.
The venue itself also proved to be one of the stars of the event, with many divers praising the Zaha Hadid-designed building for both its architecture and its atmosphere.
"Pools have their own uniqueness, design and engineering to depict culture, history or innovation,” said Troy Dumais, of the USA. “This captured all of them.”
Support for the British divers was particularly vociferous from the home crowd, with Britain's Nick Robinson-Baker – who finished 10th with Chris Mears in the synchronised 3m springboard – describing the atmosphere as “absolutely mad”.
“You hear clapping for the other teams and it's only a few claps, but when we come on it's like the gladiators are in,” he said.
The Aquatics Centre also received positive feedback from sports officials, with both the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) and the British Swimming governing body praising the new venue.
“From everyone’s feedback on the Aquatic Centre, this facility is amazing and will certainly constitute an asset for the success of FINA's disciplines at Games time,” said FINA President Dr Julio C Maglione. “I look forward to witnessing the performances of our best athletes next summer during the Olympic celebration.”
David Sparkes, chief executive of British Swimming, added: “First and foremost the venue is absolutely stunning. I have been involved in the design from the start and its just mind-blowing to see a capacity crowd in here, and so many athletes from around the world. It’s fabulous to think we are off now, we’re nearly there.”