It was announced last week that the new Olympic Hockey pitch will be blue in colour with a pink surround. The combination will certainly be striking and make the hockey stadium one of the most colourful venues for 2012. But is this a simple way of hiding the fact that the choice of surface to be played on was not based on playing performance?
There are a number of controversial elements to the story of how the surface was chosen, and for LOCOG to claim it was done “by the book” is stretching a point. Let me tell you a story…
Back in 2005 it was announced that London had won the right to stage the 2012 Olympics. This set the synthetic turf manufacturers on a quest to develop a new surface, combining the best play characteristics with the FIH (Hockey’s ruling body) desire to reduce the necessity for international pitches to be watered. Within two years a product was developed and installed at Cannock HC, and subsequently around the world, receiving rave reviews, not just for its play or water reduction requirements, but also because it was the most durable surface yet developed. This would be an added benefit when legacy was considered.
But the loudest endorsement to this development was that rival manufacturers soon copied the product and made the new texturized, monofilament, polyethylene yarn the preferred choice for most top clubs, universities and schools. Yet, all the companies who offer this type of surface were precluded from the tender bid for the 2012 Olympic pitch. Now whether I am going down the conspiracy theory route, being slightly paranoid, or have actually stumbled across a major flaw, I am not sure. Probably some of each, but the pre-qualification requirements effectively barred any new product being considered, even though everything pointed to the new type as being the way forward.
As a comparison, for the London Olympics, it is the same as buying an old box TV set rather than a new flat screen, high definition. You just wouldn’t do it.
So to make it look different and better and to hide the fact that this is old technology, blue and pink have been chosen as the exciting colours; a bit like hiding your old box TV in a mahogany cupboard.
But let’s be positive, the colour combination looks great. Visually it will make an impact and the hockey pitch playing performance for the Olympics will not be bad, just not as good as it could be. Yet the real impact will be legacy. Already the chosen surface fibre is known to wear out much quicker than the new type, which means in a few years more money will be invested to replace the Olympic pitch. Back to green at that stage probably.
A final point, and perhaps one to pick up on later, home advantage? Not at all. The surface is from Australia, one of the world’s leading hockey nations. So we have thrown away the benefit for our teams of knowing the surface to one of the tournament favourites. Great stuff!
For more information, get in touch with one of the Rhino-Turf Team.