By Philip Barker
There was not a jelly bean in sight as a group of Englishmen finally beat India at Lord’s. But this time it was archery, not cricket.
Strictly speaking Olympic hopefuls Larry Godfrey, Simon Terry and Alan Wills were representing Great Britain. But as they bounded down the famous pavilion steps, the sun shone brightly, the conditions were ideal. What England’s cricketers would have given for such conditions a fortnight or so earlier during the first Test.
Lord’s, of course, is the 2012 Olympic archery venue, and this was the first full international match to be staged on the ground. Blessed with perfect weather for spectators, it came through with flying colours, although the archers admitted the wind was a problem.
“I just hope and pray we get a lot of practice time here,” said Larry Godfrey, who just missed out on the bronze in the Athens Olympics.
“As host nation we should be trying to make as much as possible of the advantage. It’s difficult here the wind swirls and you are shooting uphill as well, so it is very tricky,” he said.
The fixture, which followed the previous week’s World Cup staged at Dover, was Great Britain against India and China, a triangular match for men and women. More are planned and they’re already thinking about an “Ashes” round in 2009 when the other Aussies are here.
The targets were set on the outfield in front of the Pavilion and in truth the crowd was sparse, mostly friends, family and archery fans. The media centre at the far end of the ground stood silent. With the football juggernaut powering up for the new season, most newspapers seemed to have decided that this was a picture story at best . No shortage of photographers but just one agency TV crew covered the event.
Temporary seating is planned on the outfield in 2012, and they’ll have to tinker with angles. It seemed possible to get a shot of the archer and pavilion, or the archer and target, but not all three together.
Like cricket, archery is aware it needs television exposure to survive. It has revamped its competitions into a straight head to head knockout.
“It’s short quick and exciting and you have a winner straight way,” said Alison Williamson, the 2004 Olympic bronze winner.
Some purists may dislike this instant form of the game, but then some crickets fans were saying the same about one-dayers in 1965, and now look at where the sport is today.
What is certain is that the International Olympic Committee now look closely at TV exposure as one of their benchmarks when they decide if a sport is to stay on the Olympic programme.
“This is our shop window to show people that archery could be something for them,” said Lynne Evans, the chairman of the Grand National Archery Society and herself a former Olympic competitor. “We’re looking at other cricket grounds where we could do the same.”
India took the women’s match, beating the Great Britain team which had won the World Cup event at Dover. No joy for China but the sight of one of their archers peering out from the England balcony was one of the strangest of the day. Expect their flag to be flying here in 2012 – at least the same colours as the MCC.
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