As competition begins in London's Water Polo Arena, it will be the first time in Olympic history that water polo its own independent venue. The arena's construction was completed late in 2011 and is bound to turn some heads.
Location: The arena is a temporary building housed in the southeast corner of Olympic Park in east London. It is adjacent to the nearby Aquatics building.
Construction: The arena structure itself is quite unique. Much of the building was created using recycled materials, including gigantic inflatable PVC cushions. The cushions completely cover the arena's roof and act as extra insulation against London's somewhat mild-summer climate.
Seating Capacity: The venue can host up to 5,000 fans. With such a small seating capacity, the arena has been sold out for some time. Venue manager Matt Phelan claims, "What the players love about the venue is the proximity of the fans to the pool." Spectators should expect to get wet.
Floor Layout: Central to the grounds is a 37-meter competition pool. The grounds also house a separate pool for teams to warm up and cool down. Stands are arranged on either side along the length of the competition pool.
Large televisions hang at either end, giving spectators an even more close up view of the action in the pool. Flags representing all of the nations competing in this year's Olympic water polo tournament are hanging in the rafters.
Events Hosted: The Water Polo Arena will host both men's and women's Olympic water polo play, starting on July 29, 2012. Fierce competition is kicked off with the men's tournament. Twelve teams vie to take on Hungary, the three-time and reigning Olympic champion. The water polo tournament in this summer's Paralympic Games will be held in the arena as well.
What to Expect: Event organizers suggest that fans arrive at the venue at least 90 minutes prior to a scheduled match. Tight security and long lines should be expected. Be sure to take whatever you'll need with you, as there is no re-entry into the venue once you leave.
After the Games: The Water Polo Arena is a temporary structure built just for this summer's Games. After the Games are over, the venue is scheduled to be demolished. Builders hope to reuse and recycle much of the structure's components elsewhere across the United Kingdom.
Kathryn Walsh has been a swim and water polo fan since her years as a competitive swimmer in high school and college. Like many, her eyes will be glued to the T.V. as competition heats up across the pond at this summer's London Games.