2012 Olympics Venue Guide: Rowing at Eton College’s Dorney Lake

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The Paris Olympic Games of 1900 saw rowing first included in the Games, with the sport remaining an Olympic event ever since, London 2012 reports. The Olympic Games in London 2012 will use the rowing center known as Dorney Lake created by public school Eton College to stage the Olympic rowing events at the Games. In the past, Dorney Lake has hosted world class rowing regattas and community rowing events.


Eton Dorney at Dorney Lake was first planned as a rowing center in the 1960s, when teachers at Eton College began to believe the River Thames was too dangerous for their students to use for rowing practice and events. The fluctuating tides, and changing water depths and widths made rowing on the Thames difficult and unpredictable. Dorney Lake, unlike the Thames is a still water lake, supplied with water by natural streams with a natural gravel filtration process. Planning did not begin in earnest until the mid-'80s, with construction beginning in 1996, a two-mile conveyor belt moved debris from the construction site for waste disposal to avoid disruption for the local community, according to Dorney Lake. The 10-year construction process was completed in time for the 2006 World Rowing Championships; in 2005, a tower at the finish line was built to meet the standards of the Olympic Games.


Olympic rowing events take place over a six-lane, 2,000-meter course, according to The Daily Telegraph. Dorney Lake was constructed with a maximum length of 2,200 meters, eight racing lanes and a minimum depth of 3.5 meters for the optimum performance of boats using the lake, Dorney Lake reports. For the Olympic regatta up to 30,000 spectators will view the 14 classes of rowing events. The rowing regatta for the London 2012 Olympic Games will take place over eight days.


Dorney Lake is a private venue owned by Eton College, located around 25 miles west of London close to Windsor Castle. Following the 2012 Olympic Games the venue will remain under the control of the College, with the school rowing teams practicing and racing on the water. Dorney Lake is not used solely by Eton College, over 100 schools and rowing clubs use the venue for practice and rowing events. Community events and programs are also centered at Dorney Lake, including the Junior Rowing Initiative that allows access to the sport of rowing for young people. Eton College allows access to the venue by invitation only and does not charge for access, apart from for major events, such as the Olympic Games and World Championships.

Paul Cartmell has covered the 2004 Greece Olympics and 2008 Beijing Games for local newspapers and websites. Cartmell is also an amateur cyclist and soccer coach.

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