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Inside London's Olympic velodrome

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Andy Dill | 13:52 UK time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

London's Olympic velodrome


Imagine the noisiest place you've ever been, multiply it ten-fold, crank up the temperature to almost 30 degrees C, and you might just get a hint of what greeted us as we watched Great Britain's cyclists clinch five gold medals, one silver and two bronze in the Track Cycling World Cup at London's Olympic velodrome.

In the mixed zone within the track, just 20 feet from the second bend, we stood and tried to hear ourselves think. Matt Dawson, our reporter for Sports Extra's commentary, was poised to interview the victorious riders alongside our BBC TV colleagues, while I looked after our equipment, making sure the production went smoothly.

According to Matt, “being thrown into the mixed zone for the first time did fill me with a new rush, but no sooner had I read my notes, the roof lifted and two world records tumbled. Thirty minutes I’ll never forget when I saw the sprint girls and team pursuit posse whizz around to rapturous applause.”

What a place to be - with its low roof, the roars simply bounced back down and reverberated off the polished Siberian pine track. It sloped steeply above at an eye-watering angle, awe-inspiring for us, utterly thrilling for the cyclists hurtling around it.

Great Britain’s Sir Chris Hoy told Matt he’d hit an amazing 78.4 kilometres per hour as he clinched the keirin final. The velodrome had been designed for speed and it didn’t let us down.

Sir Chris Hoy on the track at the velodrome


And it was clear all weekend that GB’s cyclists were energised by the continuous tide of home support. I doubt six thousand people have ever created more of an astonishing atmosphere.

High up in the stands our commentary team Simon Brotherton, Rob Hayles and Steve Parry had the perfect bird’s-eye view over the arena with its colourful tapestry, made up of thousands of fans, and the teams honing their bikes for competition.

Wherever we were, it was impossible not to feel the full force of the crowd’s excitement. Without fail, each time a British cyclist set foot on the track accompanied by the familiar chimes of Big Ben from the blaring tannoy, another mexican sound wave surged round the arena in anticipation of more home glory.

Of course, this was just the start of a huge year; the next stop for Team GB will be for the Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne in April for another chance to measure their Olympic credentials.

By then there’ll be less than four months before the Games open and judging by last weekend’s events it will be an experience to remember in London.

To see more photos see our gallery here.

Andrew Dill is a 5 live Sport producer



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