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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Not scouting the London Racers

I’m not going to be writing a typical column about the London Racers. Monday, the team decided to go dark. Management cites two incidents that sparked this decision. On November 5th Blaz Emersic of the Nottingham Blaze suffered a serious facial injury when he contacted a “protruding object” in the safety barrier. In addition, at a game on November 13th, the safety glass in one section “exploded”. Apparently no one was hurt by the glass breakage. However the team says this isn’t wasn’t the last time that section of glass shattered.

The Lee Valley Park has also been critisized by Racer fans for failing to maintain the ice facility. Fans on the Racers discussion boards say there are five-year-old patches on the safety board.

In sum, the team said it felt the safety of the players and the public was at risk at the Lee Valley Ice Centre. The team says it attempted to relocate, but says London doesn’t have another professional ice facility. As a result the British Elite League has lost one ice hockey team.

The story of the death of an ice hockey team in Britain may all be quaint. The fans will find the sun rises tomorrow, the skaters and staff will go on to other things. However, I noticed that Lee Valley plans on hosting at least two 2012 Olympic events.

What would be the effect of an Olympian or a group of international visitors testing the safety of a barrier at Lee Valley? If Lee Valley’s resources are already stretched, how much worse will the situation be as the IOC pushes it to upgrade and complete new facilities?

This situation points to a failure that impacts the international community. Emeric’s accident could cast a cloud over London’s Olympic moment. The Lee Valley Park Authority seems unable to deal with an AA level of professional sport. It should tell the public why it thinks it will be able to safely handle the highest level of sport and hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic visitors.


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