Rio rapids ready to roll
On 29 September 2015, at the Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s media was given a first glimpse of the course that will provide the world’s top canoe slalom specialists with their stage at next summer’s Olympic Games.
The Whitewater Stadium was officially unveiled by Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, who hailed the moment as an important milestone in the preparations for Rio 2016, describing the venue as the most challenging part of the Deodoro Olympic complex.
“This sporting facility was perhaps the biggest challenge of the Olympic Games and today we can confirm that it has been delivered,” said Paes. “As everyone can see, this construction is the most complicated in Deodoro. It is with great happiness that today we see the course totally ready.”
The course, which uses a series of pumps and man-made obstacles to simulate a natural river, is a veritable feat of modern engineering, which has required rigorous testing and tweaking to optimise every aspect for top-level competition.
Development of the venue included period of innovative testing using a scale model of course at the Czech Technical University in Prague (CZE). Commissioned by the same design team that designed the canoe slalom course for London 2102, every aspect of the 1:13 scale model was tested by a research team led by Czech father-and-son team Jaroslav Pollert Senior and Junior, both of whom are former world champion slalom canoeists.
The real course will be put through its paces for the first time at an official test event on 26-29 November, when some 250 canoe athletes 40 countries are expected to compete in the Rio 2016 dress rehearsal.
The International Canoe Federation has worked closely with the Rio 2016 organisers to help shape the venue, and has already given the course its seal of approval during a site visit earlier this year.
While the course itself is now complete, work continues on the surrounding features and infrastructure, with temporary seating for 8,424 people due to be installed before the Games.
Together with the BMX and mountain bike venues, the canoe slalom course forms part of the X-Park, a centre for “extreme” sports that will form an important part of Rio 2016’s sporting and social legacy programme, providing the local community with a sporting and recreational facility that is certain to prove particularly popular with the city’s youth.
Indeed, the local population may not have to wait until the Games to get a feel for the new facilities, as Mayor Paes expressed the hope that once the canoe slalom construction works and test event had been completed, it would be possible to open the area to the public.