The banners convey a mixture of messages 'Olympics Sail from Qingdao to the World' and 'Sail With Heart, Sail to Success', and as well as supporting the sailors, invite the residents of Qingdao to 'Be A Good Host' and look after their foreign guests.
As a Test Event, the objective is literally to 'test' all facilities and systems, both on shore and on the water, from race management to security, first aid to athlete services - all elements of the competition and venue management will be put through their paces and evaluated. The regatta is taking place at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre, located at the former Beihai Dockyard on Fushan Bay in East New Zone of Qingdao, China.
The Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre is prepared, ready and waiting for the first Olympic Test Event to be held in China. Sailing has received a high profile as a result, and for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) it is the first opportunity to see the planning and intense preparation come to fruition.
The venue, converted from a dockyard is impressive. David KELLETT (AUS), ISAF Vice-President and Technical Delegate for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, commented, 'I had the privilege of being in Qingdao in 1999, when China was bidding to host the Olympics, and saw the venue as a dockyard. It is a credit to China and Qindgao that they have achieved their targets. Never before has an Olympic Organizing Committee been so far advanced in preparing the venue, and we can already see that this will be a magnificent facility.'
Sentiments echoed by many sailors, from whom the response 'Fantastic' has been the standard answer when asked their thoughts on the venue.
Whilst some buildings are yet to be completed for use, such as the media centre and the Athletes Village, the main venues are all complete and ready to host an Olympic Sailing Competition. The Athletes Village, which will house all the athletes and team officials, is still being constructed but is due to be completed and operational for the 2007 Test Event. Post-Olympics it will be taken over by a global hotel chain.
With the Practice Race taking place today, tomorrow will see the start of official racing for eight of the eleven Olympic events. Racing will take place over four race courses, with nine days of scheduled competition and two reserve days. The regatta will follow the format of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, with a ten race opening series (15 for the 49er), followed by a Medal Race between the top ten competitors. The Medal Race, scheduled for Wednesday 30 August, will be judged on the water and scored at double points, with letter scores counting double points based on the original fleet size.
ISAF caught up with Krystal WEIR (AUS), who holds a world ranking of 4 in the Laser Radial, as she came ashore from the practice race, 'The conditions are challenging, and I am getting used to the current and the waves. This is an information gathering event for me.' commented WEIR, before concluding 'The venue is fantastic!'
Representing their nations are a total of 462 athletes, supported by accredited team officials of 223 persons. Almost 50 ISAF Race Officials are in Qingdao, who are working with the National Technical Officials on all the competition areas - race management, jury, measurement.
The Qingdao International Regatta has attracted over 300 accredited media, who will arrive at varying times across the duration of the event.
A volunteer population of more than 1,000 are providing essential services and support across all functional areas. Many of the volunteers are students, who plan to continue their support through the 2007 Test Event and the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition itself.
Bojan GALE (SLO), team leader for the Slovenian Team commented, 'We are all very happy. The venue is great and all the arrangements and logistics to bring our sailors and equipment to Qingdao have been straightforward.'
The Opening Ceremony will be a formal but fun affair, with a national flag parade, before being formally opened by the Mayor of Qingdao, and concluding with a fireworks display over the venue.
To be broadcast live on national television, the Ceremony will be attended by athletes, support staff, media, officials and key figures from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), including the Chairman of BOCOG Liu QI, who arrived at the venue this morning for a site visit. IOC Vice-President and former Vice-President of ISAF, Ng SER MIANG (SIN), will also be attending.