PUBLISHED: 14:07 08 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:31 20 February 2013
The lead-up to the 2012 Games has begun in earnest in Hertfordshire with the opening of the Lee Valley White Water Centre. Clare Bourke went along to see the venue and give it a go for herself...
IF anything is going to put Hertfordshire on the map, its taking a prominent role in the London 2012 Games and thats exactly what the new Lee Valley White Water Centre is doing.
After months of anticipation, the centre finally opened its doors to the public at Easter and has already been a huge hit with local residents and sportspeople alike.
Lee Valley White Water Centre is the only brand new London 2012 venue people can use and enjoy before the Games and consists of two separate courses a 300m Olympic Standard Competition Course with a 5.5m descent, plus a 160m Legacy Loop with a 1.6m descent, perfect for training and sports development.
And before it even opened, 3,000 bookings had already been made for rafting with a huge number of local people wanting to join in the fun.
Shaun Dawson, CEO of Lee Valley Regional Park, says, We have been pleasantly surprised to see how many local people have already booked. We have done a good job in making sure people have been aware that this is their Olympic venue in their county, with the help of the Herts is Ready for Winners Partnership. There is a sense of pride and ownership and theres a real appetite for people to get on the course ahead of the Games.
Over the coming years we will see the tourist econmony benefit from a venue like this, locally in Broxbourne but also in the county as a whole. It adds another dimension to the tourist offer there is nothing else like this in the country so for Hertfordshire to be able to sell it is really important. It adds a uniqueness.
This project goes back over 10 years even before the Olympic bid but the Olympics made it happen in a way that perhaps we couldnt achieve without it on this scale. To have started that journey over a decade ago and to be standing here today watching people having a great time is fabulous.
When the Games starts in May 2012 the centres rapids will host five exciting days of intense Canoe Slalom competition.
Just days after the centre opened it was already set for the 2011 international season as GB Canoeing Slalom athletes raced on the Olympic white water course for the first time over the bank holiday weekend from April 30 to May 2.
The three days of racing saw the best of British Canoe Slalom talent fight it out in the hope of qualifying for a place on the 2011 GB team for the World Cup series, the European Championships and the World Championships.
This landmark event saw more than 5,000 spectators flow through the gates to gain a glance at the spectacular site, and with glorious sunshine throughout the weekend there was an obvious buzz of excitement and enthusiasm amongst the crowd as they enjoyed the thrill of Canoe Slalom competition. The event is just the start of many to follow, starting next year with the Olympic Trials.
Shaun Dawson adds, Weve been bowled over by the huge enthusiasm for Lee Valley White Water Centre since we opened. More than 10,000 people visited in our opening weekend. The feedback were getting is fantastic.
To see the centre full of Britains best canoeists vying for selection towards the 2011 World Championships is a great taste of things to come with the Olympics next year and the World Championships here at Lee Valley White Water Centre in 2015.
Tried and tested
The centre opened for business on April 22 but three days before that I joined the rest of the local and national press at a preview day to try the rapids for myself.
On arrival I was amazed at the sheer scale of the course and was filled with trepidation but I neednt have worried as we were in very safe hands.
Once I had been kitted out with a wetsuit, helmet and life jacket, it was time for a crash course in how to paddle a raft and what to do if I or any other rafters fell in.
My five fellow rafters and I were in the capable hands of Eamon whose job it is to lead amateurs like us through the rapids. So after some expert instruction and a swim test basically throwing yourself into the rapids and riding them a short distance on your back to check you know how to if you fall in we set off.
And I have to admit it was a real blast! What an experience! For the first go Eamon kept things low key but once he was sure we could handle it he stepped us up a gear and for our next two runs we were getting more and more adventurous.
And he must have done something very right because we were the only raft that morning not to lose someone into the water which is lucky as thats the bit that was terrifying me!
Sadly, it was all over too soon and I must admit I just wanted to get straight back in the raft and try it all again I will definitely be going back.
Did you know?
13,000 litres of water a second powers down the Olympic Standard Competition Course enough to fill 75 bath tubs every second
More than 150,000 cubic metres of earth were used to form the embankments and landscaping
More than 150 workers were on site at the peak of construction activity
The flat water pool is the size of two football pitches
There are five water pumps on the Olympic Standard Competition Course and three on the Legacy Loop, each weighing five tonnes the same as a full-grown elephant
Terms and conditions
Canoeing, kayaking, rafting and other activities available at Lee Valley White Water Centre carry inherent risks. You should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for your own actions and involvement.
Height and Weight Restrictions: White Water Rafters must be competent and confident swimmers; at least 14 years old; in good physical health; and have a chest size larger than 84cms/33ins and less 120cms/50ins with a maximum weight of 18stone/115kgs.
WIN! Tickets to ride the rapids
With tickets starting at just 49 and now on sale at www.gowhitewater.co.uk or on 08456 770 606, people are queuing up to join in the fun.
Hertfordshire Life is offering one lucky reader the chance to win two tickets to try out the rapids at Lee Valley White Water Rafting Centre for themselves.
For your chance to win simply answer the following question:
In which month will the 2012 Games start?
Email your answer, with your name, address and daytime telephone number to email@example.com putting White Water in the subject line or send to White Water Competition, PO Box 1322, Widmer End, High Wycombe, HP15 6YW by the closing date of June 30, 2011.
Try it for yourself
Lee Valley White Water Centre
08456 770 606