Over the past few months, neighbours have watched in puzzlement as the Olympic venue on Woolwich Common has risen from the ground. The huge structures will play host to shooting and Paralympic archery events between July and September, with Olympics organisers taking over much of the common. On Saturday, groups of neighbours, from Charlton and Woolwich, were among the first to see inside the arenas.
While the ructions over Greenwich Park have hogged the limelight, the works taking place in Woolwich are much more complex. Construction is almost complete on the two arenas on the common, with the Olympic Delivery Authority about to hand over the keys to organisers LOCOG. Work is also continuing on another, open air, shooting range inside Woolwich Barracks itself, with huge nets being erected to protect the public from stray shots – and to make it easier to clean up.
The biggest white structure – which at 26 metres high, dominates views from Charlton House and the slopes of Shooters Hill – is the finals hall. Its distinctive design – with two fabric skins built around a steel structure – helps ventilation and allows the temperature to stay constant. The pushed-out rings stop the skin from flapping. This is where the first medals of London 2012 will be won – around 11am on 28 July 2012, in the women’s 10 metre air rifle contest.
This hall will play host to the 10 metre, 25 metre and 50 metre air rifle finals. The three concrete strips on the synthetic turf mark each distance. The other ranges will at least partly be open to the elements – shooting manager Peter Underhill says “We don’t want quiet, we want noise”, adding that dealing with the elements is part of the skill of shooting. But the finals hall is inside for the benefit of television. At the centre left of the photo above, you may just be able to see where a target has been fixed to the wall.
Above you can just about see the top of the structure (in white), where the scoreboard will go.
Here’s where the 2,800 spectators will sit – entering via the “hobbit holes” at the bottom, looking down at the action below. Up to 4,000 spectators will be on the common at any one time, with organisers creating a “plaza” for them at the entrance at the Woolwich end of Ha Ha Road, which will be closed for the Games. Shuttle buses will run from Woolwich Arsenal station. Repository Road, through the barracks, will be closed while events are on, from 9am-6pm. Athletes will enter the site via Charlton Park Lane.
Next to the finals hall is the hall for the rapid fire pistol competition.
This can accomodate 800 spectators, but here the targets are open to the elements – although it’s only really possible to appreciate this if you move up close…
Once again, spectators will enter via “hobbit holes” at the back. As with Greenwich Park during the summer, there will be a test event at Woolwich – the ISSF Shooting World Cup – from 17-29 April, with 700 athletes putting the facilities through their paces.
Once the test events are done, the venue opens for training on 16 July – the same day as the Olympic Park. After the Paralympics are over, the aim is for Woolwich Common to be fully returned to the public from March 2013. A number of trees have been felled to accommodate the construction site, with the Olympic Delivery Authority pledging to plant one and half new trees for every one that has been taken down.
Clearly there’ll be some disruption with road closures across the common. If you’re a bus user, here’s some maps of what TfL has planned for Woolwich Common and Queen Elizabeth Hospital during games time – these haven’t been officially confirmed yet, but were sent out to local councils some time ago.
While Greenwich has definitely hogged the limelight, Woolwich’s role in next year’s games will come to the forefront soon. After a terrible year in SE18, many locals will be hoping the arrival of thousands of athletes and spectators will give the place a desperately-needed lift in 2012.