So at the beginning of December I was lucky enough to be invited to Lausanne in Switzerland for the grand opening of the much anticipated World Archery Excellence Centre, many years in the planning, almost as many in the execution.
Lausanne is the World Archery base, and the base of Olympic sport in general. The centre itself stands in the Swiss countryside, a long, low building just off the main road a few kilometres north of the city centre – pleasingly, you are pointed there by little signs using the classic 1972 Otl Aicher pictogram.
The indoor Easton Hall, almost six thousand square metres, is very much the heart of things. There’s a nice blend of ambient and artificial light from the long upper storey windows.I like the look of the place, solid and angular and aware of its natural surroundings. The concrete feels smooth and warm rather than brutal, the building has many eco-modern features such as geothermal heating and solar power, and the environmental commitment includes acres of unpainted plywood internally, which is apparently going to stay that way. It gleams with newness and pride, even if there’s still a few edges to iron out.
Indoors is limited to 70m, but the outdoor range, chilly in a Swiss December, allows up to 90m shooting. Naturally, there all the rest of the facilities expected of a modern sports complex; a gym, physio room, equipment repair room, meeting rooms, and a restaurant. There is an emphasis on expanding excellence in coaching just as much as training archers and teams.
The only thing I was surprised about is the lack of residential facilities, a cornerstone of some other international archery destinations like Kim Hyung-Tak’s school in Korea. But apparently they are in the long-term plan; it’s been an epic journey to secure the permissions for the Centre which started in 2009. The area is a zone of expansion for the city of Lausanne, and new hotels and apartments are coming in. I really hope the spectacular size and location can draw in the business from around the world.
Friday saw a grand opening ceremony with speeches from IOC president Thomas Bach and World Archery president Dr. Ugur Erdener, as well as the Turkish sports minister. Later, in front of the great and the good of Lausanne, international archery, and the Olympic movement, we were treated to an exhibition match from mixed teams of Choi Misun and Sjef Van Den Berg versus Naomi Folkard and Ku Bonchan, followed by the well-honed rivalry of Sara Lopez versus Sarah Sonnichsen, where the latter won (interestingly, the first match Sara Lopez has lost for over a year, even if it wasn’t ‘real’). A team of Swiss youth archers finally burst some large balloons and the place erupted in confetti, wine, canapes and larking around.
The various Olympians, invited for the weekend seemed relaxed and ready to enjoy themselves. I’d love to be able to tell you which of the Korean team smokes like a chimney and which one of them nailed a whole bottle of wine during the opening party, but that’d be breaking ‘tour rules’. What happens in Lausanne, stays in Lausanne.
The weekend wrapped up with the Lausanne Archery Classic FITA 18 tournament on Sunday morning, where I did something I don’t usually do: I took part. More on that tomorrow.