The first test events in the Olympic Park took place over the past week, with spectators having the chance to see how two venues, the BMX track and the Basketball Arena, would function.
Though designed as a temporary venue, the Basketball Arena is an intimidating beast. Built to seat 12,000 spectators, the arena is clad in 12,000sqm of PVC membrane, stretched into an agreeable exoskeleton that also acts as the building's apron. The white plastic prominently encasing the arena is effectively a stylish shell protecting the shrinkwrapped main structure from bright sun and pouring rain alike. Inside, the building's transient nature is evidenced by the basic but functional seating and staircases, but the overall impression is of a fine arena. One minor problem was that wa, from the higher seats, it was impossible to hear any of the announcements made over the PA system, although this is most likely due to the fact that the arena was only a quarter full; pack in over ten thousand for the Olympics, and it probably won't be such an issue. The "entertainment" during games was also a mixed bag: a particularly lacklustre cheerleading troupe were blown off the stage by a bevie of breakdancing kids who looked like they'd mistaken the arena for the Britain's Got Talent audition room.
Six teams were involved for the test event: Great Britain, China, Australia, Croatia, France and Serbia. Londonist took in a series of games over the weekend, including a particularly hi-octane match between GB and the Aussies. The generally placid crowd rallied behind the plucky Brits, who were trailing most of the game before dramatically drawing level in the final quarter and forcing an extra five minutes of play. Somewhat against the Olympic spirit, fans began booing the Australians at each free throw, which may have been a factor in spurring the Antipodeans on to a 91-90 victory.
Team GB took several teams to the wire over the week, a great sign of their progress in recent years, and did manage a victory, overcoming China in the home stretch. In particular Luol Deng, who plays in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls, was a stand-out star for the home nation, and gave fans something positive to think on for the Olympics.
The final match on Sunday saw France beat Serbia, and run out as tournament winners.
We'll have further thoughts on what we learned from the basketball and BMX test events later in the week.
By Dean Nicholas and Duncan Young.