Archery at the Home of Cricket
For the London 2012 Olympic Games, archery took over the home of cricket, the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground.
From 27 July to 3 August a total of 128 athletes from all the major countries plus those from Fiji, San Marino, Myanmar, Ivory Coast, Samoa and Iraq competed across four events with the traditionally big nations sweeping the medals, including Korea taking three of the four golds on offer.
In their own words, we hear from two of those involved who worked on the archery competition and their memories of the eight days of action.
Chris Marsh was the Archery Sport Manager responsible for the venue set up and competition, ensuring the athletes had the very best environment to perform to their best, while Janine Self headed up the Olympic News Service on-site, managing a large team of reporters to gather all the news about what happened and send it around the world.
“It was an iconic stage because Lord’s was absolutely everything about Britain,” said Self about the cricket stadium in west London which opened in 1814.
“But when you think of Lord’s, you also think of it as a very misogynist organisation in terms of previously not allowing women to be members (it started admitting women as members only in 1998)."
“You can imagine my delight on the first morning when I arrived and had to walk through the famous Long Room and up into the members bar.”
“I just thought; ‘I'm taking footsteps that not that long ago no woman was allowed to, to see this room, walk through this room or have a drink in this room. It felt really, really privileged to be able to do it.”
For Marsh, Lord’s provided a testing environment to work in at times, but an experience that will live long in his memory.
“It was amazing and a great challenge to work on one of Britain’s historic iconic venues,” said Marsh, who now works for International Olympic Committee on their Summer Sport Operations and International Federation Relations.
“While it was easier to work with a venue that is already built, it also presented an interesting challenge to get a purpose-built, world class, cricket venue to stage a pinnacle event in archery.
“There was a deep responsibility, a duty of care, to ensure we maintained and gave back the venue in the excellent condition in which we received it. To ensure there was no damage to the sacred cricket square and fit in with a packed cricket season.”
That season meant Lord’s was the last venue at London 2012 to be handed over to the organising committee, ready for action.
“It was literally going to be a lightning turnaround,” said Self. “They were really up against it."
That turnaround was very special indeed, especially after the archery had finished on the hallowed turf, with an international cricket match between England and South Africa being played soon after.
“Two 2,450-seat temporary spectator stands and safety wall all needed to be disassembled and removed from the venue within three days of competition finishing to allow replacement of the outer turf for a crucial match,” explains Marsh.
“50 refrigerated lorries were travelling down from northern England to the ground with rolls of new turf that had been ordered two years prior to the Games. There could be no delay in the journey and unloading of these lorries to avoid risk of the turf dying.”
In the men’s individual 72-arrow ranking round Im Dong Hyun finished top, breaking the world record by shooting 51 10s and 21 9s to score 699, while Ki Bo Bae shot 31 10s in a 671 to finish top.
“Prior to the Games, Im and the Korean men’s team set two new world records at the test event, which was held in October at the same venue,” says Marsh.
“It was such an added bonus that Im and his teammates went on to set another two world record at Games time which was fantastic."
“This showed, that on both occasions, the athletes were happy with the venue conditions and that we had created the environment in which athletes could perform at their very best."
"This was our primary goal.”
But it was not just the world records that made the news.
“The most extraordinary moment for me was on the first day,” explains Self. “Due to incorrect communication being given out an unofficial website said that tickets were available the ranking round."
“The London 2012 Opening Ceremony was in London on the Friday night and so was the ranking round. There was no other live Olympic Games action anywhere in the country on that Friday, apart from the ranking round and a huge crowd turned up outside asking to come in and watch. We had all these people outside trying to buy tickets that didn't exist."
“The round took place down at the Nursey End at Lord’s which had no facility for spectators, there was no way you could let people in. We also had all the main newspapers come with their accreditation but no mixed zone either. No one thought it was going to be required."
“Officials were trying to tell journalists to be really quiet, really careful," said Self. "They were allowed to report and I would imagine that's the first and last time in living memory that a ranking round had that much attention and publicity.”
“It was really unfortunate to have a queue of enthusiastic spectators waiting outside the venue,” adds Marsh.
“It was not a nice way to start the first day of the London 2012 Games, hours before the opening ceremony but my colleagues at Venue Management and Event Service managed this by to meeting all the disappointed spectators to explain the situation and provide an London 2012 official pin badge as a token of good faith.”
Many of the spectators throughout the London 2012 Olympic Games were new to most of the sports and archery was no exception.
“I was very apprehensive to know how would the spectators take to archery,” explains Marsh.
“It was hard to imagine because for the days leading up to the start, I saw empty stands then, on Saturday 28 July, for the men’s team, all the seats were full, the atmosphere was buzzing and the noise was incredible when the archers started competing.”
The noise of 4,500 fans in the stands was all part of the atmosphere, but they quickly understood the preference of archers for quiet when going through their process.
“They were brilliant,” says Self about the spectators. “It was a really, really good atmosphere. You could hear it from inside the media centre.”
“Britain is a sports-going nation. They know tennis before a serve, golf before a tee-off or before the 100m in athletics, you can hear a pin drop.
“They were quite well educated, plus there was a very good on-pitch commentator who was directed the crowd well. It was all explained. They would give all the information, how many miles per hour that arrow has travelled, the wind all of that was explained.”
“It was funny to see almost all the spectators, their heads go from side to side as the arrow left the bow and hit the target,” adds Marsh.
“I don’t know why, I hadn’t anticipated that but I absolutely loved that some of them got into the spirit of it and dressed up in fancy dress, wearing Robin Hood, Maid Marian or medieval knight outfits.”
“There were hundreds of moments,” says Marsh about his memories of the on-field action.
“Alison Williamson and Natalia Valeeva were competing in their sixth consecutive Olympic Games, the second-ranked Kim Bub Min got a scare in the first round when Rob Elder, ranked 63 and from Fiji came back to take the match to a final tense fifth set and the USA men’s team beating Korea in the semifinals.
“There was also Berengere Schuh beating Choi Hyeonju in a one arrow shoot-off after Choi came back from four set points down to tie the match in the fifth set."
"It was incredible to see Oh finally achieve Korea’s first men’s individual gold medal having watched Oh’s predecessors achieve silver at past Games. At the closing stages of the match, I vividly recall being constantly on radio comms, with our victory ceremonies team, to let them know when the match was over so they could bring in the podium and get everyone lined up for the medal ceremony."
"It was great to see the brilliant new talents emerging at the time and to see a new strong archery nation of Mexico establish itself to challenge the ever-successful Korea team."
There was also one memory for Marsh which proved to be a little bit problematic for the company producing the TV footage from Lord's.
"I recall the Olympic Broadcasting Service not being very happy that Khatuna Lorig shot the TV camera embedded in the centre of the target during her bronze medal match against Mariana Avitia," explains Marsh.
"They needed to get more spare camera lenses pretty sharpish in time for the men’s finals the next day as they originally only had stock of four replacement camera lenses for archery but these were also all shot in the first two days of the competition."
To get the emotions through to the media and general public, Self could rely on someone who was close to being on the end of a microphone at the Games, not holding it.
"Our sports specialist was Michael Peart, who had just missed out on being part of the British squad," explains Self who arranged for reporters to wait after matches in a mixed zone to speak to the competitors and get quotes.
"Michael was not a journalist, but as an archer he was very popular and knew everybody. He would wave at the archers and they would nod and come over, we actually got loads of really good stuff in the run-up and we had really good, good stories.”
“We also had a Korean student who was one of our reporters and by the end of the competition, the Korean team had adopted her and gave her a little memento."
So many memories, but it would not have been possible without one extra-special set of people, according to Marsh.
“The Games Makers (volunteers) made the London 2012 Games," he said.
"I will forever be grateful to all of them. Working at London 2012 was an absolute honour, outstanding and I would do it all again.”
Medallists - London 2012
Men’s recurve individual
- Oh Jin Hyek, Korea
- Takaharu Furukawa, Japan
- Dai Xiaoxiang, China
Men’s recurve team
- Italy (Michele Frangilli, Marco Galiazzo, Mauro Nespoli)
- USA (Brady Ellison, Jake Kaminski, Jacob Wukie)
- Korea (Im Dong Hyun, Kim Bubmin, Oh Jin Hyek)
- Ki Bo Bae, Korea
- Aida Roman, Mexico
- Mariana Avitia, Mexico
Women’s recurve team
- Korea (Choi Hyeonju, Ki Bo Bae, Lee Sung Jin)
- China (Cheng Ming, Fang Yuting, Xu Jing)
- Japan (Ren Hayakawa, Miki Kanie, Kaori Kawanaka)