PHILIP BARKER reports from Woolwich, where the many competitions at the shooting Olympic test event offered a scatter-gun approach to the sport
On Saturday July 28, the first gold medal of the 2012 London Games be decided in Woolwich shortly before lunch. The women’s 10-metre air rifle winner is guaranteed a place in Olympic history.
The first thing that strikes you is that all the fetching images of the historic Royal Artillery Barracks that we saw in those glossy Olympic bid brochures have scarcely been realised. London 2012 organisers say that modifications will be made to allow better camera shots for photographers during the Games. Last week, all the street furniture that goes with an event like this made that difficult, if not impossible.
Over a week of competition in Woolwich, there were 15 competition categories, just as there will be for the Olympics. Everything from small bore rifle to pistols and shotgun. A veritable arsenal.
Shooting is an Olympic sport that will probably see many journalists at the Games covering it for the first time. That was the case the day I was there. They should be prepared for some walking.
When London first staged the Games, matters were so confused in one event that Britain entered one too many competitors. Although Philip Plater broke the world record, he was disqualified when the mistake was discovered, surely one of the unluckiest Olympians there has ever been.
There was little danger of such an oversight here. An info service was provided for the final three days of competition. Results and flash quotes were delivered in a speedy fashion. Translators were on hand in the mixed zone but, in truth, the Olympic News Service outnumbered other media for this test event.
“There has been good interest but I’d like to see much more,” said British shooter Ed Ling, who learned to shoot on a farm in Somerset. He was edged out of a medal in a bronze medal shoot-off in the men’s trap event.
“This is a great sport and it would be great to tell more people about it,” he said.
Italians had finished first and second in the London trial event. “The international federation does not allow live coverage of shooting competitions. If they did more Italians would follow the sport,” Albano Pera, the Italian team coach, said.
Winner Massimo Fabrizzi was more realistic. “Football is the most important thing in Italy. Even if I won gold at the Olympics it would only be my friends asking for my autograph.”
Shooting is one of the original Olympic sports but it has adapted formats to try to make it more appealing to spectators.
In the rapid fire pistol final, the last shooter in the latter rounds is dropped from the competition. It made for a dramatic shoot-out for bronze between two Chinese competitors.
They, at least, had the advantage of staying indoors. The changing weather conditions and April showers did affect competitors in the shotgun events. “In Italy, we have covered ranges,” said double Olympic silver medallist Giovanni Pellielo.
“The English always say that the weather will get better,” said Fabrizzi.”I hope it improves like they say it will.”
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