Locked out at Lord’s as confusion leaves fans on outside

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Olympic competition began yesterday in the host city not so much with a bang as a hiss and a thud.

Archery might not be a sport to stir the passion, yet the basic principle of hitting a bullseye with bow and a arrow has been part of the Olympic family since the second Games in 1900.

Even before then, Robin Hood was allegedly a dab hand.

It was the only show in town early on yesterday, before the audacious opening ceremony got under way.

Hence the packed media centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground, a famous cricketing venue given the Olympic treatment for London 2012.

While reporters and photographers filled the iconic media centre as if it were the first day of an Ashes Test, punters – the real audience for these Games – were turned away at the gates amid confusion over ticketing.

The London 2012 website advertised the event’s preliminary rounds as “unticketed”, which some members of the public interpreted as open to the public.

Olympic organiser LOCOG said it had not advertised or sold tickets for the ranking event and had always made it clear preliminary rounds were not open to spectators.

Alas, fans curious about how such a precise sport played on hallowed cricketing turf is conducted, will have to wait until the real action begins tomorrow with archery’s team event.

The absence of spectators made for a largely non-descript atmosphere.

However, when the battle for medals commences this morning, with the women’s team event to follow tomorrow, play will switch to the Home of Cricket’s revered square.

During competition, archers will fire their arrows from the pavilion over the cricket square to their targets towards the media centre, with two banks of 2,500-seater stands either side, creating a corridor of action.

Yesterday was merely the ranking round, when the 64 archers in the men’s and women’s event fired 72 arrows from 70 metres, with the person with the highest score progressing to meet the lowest, the second to meet the 63rd, and so on.

It was contested on the practice ground, off Wellington Road, with the big media orb looming large overhead.

From that vantage point, only the targets were in sight, with the line of 64 players emerging from underneath the shadows to retrieve their arrows like infantry advancing on the enemy.

Rotherham’s Amy Oliver finds herself in danger of making an early retreat.

Of the three British women in the ranking round, Oliver finished the lowest, in 57th place.

In the first round on Monday she will meet the eighth seed, India’s Deepika Kumari.

“We played as a team against her and the Indian team in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi two years ago,” said the 24-year-old who learnt the game with her grandparents at Dearne Valley Archery Club.

“She’s a really good archer but anything can happen on the day.

“You shouldn’t read too much into the seedings. I’ve got the home crowd on my side, my mum, dad, boyfriend and my aunty in the crowd, so it will be a great experience.

“I’ve got to enjoy it and stay strong.”

As for that first taste of the Olympic experience, Oliver handled it a lot better than she anticipated she would. In fact, it was an issue with her equipment that the former ballet dancer felt undermined her challenge.

“I’d been in-between bows all week and then halfway through the round it felt a bit sticky and I knew it wasn’t working correctly so I had to change bows halfway through,” said Oliver. “It’s not a problem, I knew both bows were okay and I shot better with the second bow.

“I didn’t realise why I wasn’t going as well with the first bow, so I felt a little confused. Overall I didn’t really feel that nervous, I felt very well prepared mentally.”

Before the individual on Monday, Oliver competes in the team event with Naomi Folkard and the veteran of five Olympics, Alison Williamson.

They take on Russia, in front of 5,000 fans on the Lord’s cricket ground.

“We’re used to this for a ranking round,” she said of playing in front of no spectators.

“There’s not as many press at this stage, like there was today, so in that respect it felt like an Olympics because you had people taking pictures of you taking arrows out of your target, which is different.

“I’m really looking forward to getting out onto the proper Lord’s pitch.

“We competed there at the test event but there wasn’t the big stands.

“It’ll be interesting with the wind swirl in that corridor, but we’ll have the team event (Sunday) when we can all help each other out and gauge how we need to shoot.

“I’m usually quite nervous in World Cups but I didn’t really feel that today.

Maybe it was because I didn’t have many expectations, I was just aiming to do my best.”

Two world records fell in the men’s ranking round in the morning, the first global marks of these Games to be lowered.

South Korea’s Im Dong-Hyun, who is visually impaired, set an individual record in the ranking round.

In the team event, Dong-hyun and his Korean team-mates Kim Bubmin and Oh Jin-hyek also set a new landmark.

nick.westby@ypn.co.uk

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