Coventry & Warwickshire

Oman and Senegal test City of Coventry Stadium ahead of Olympics

Image caption The ground was not operating at full capacity

"We've got the biggest show on earth, the Olympics coming to Coventry, and we're very proud of it," said Daniel Gidney, chief executive of the City of Coventry Stadium.

He was speaking ahead of the ground hosting the men's Olympic football tournament qualification play-off.

Senegal beat Oman 2 - 0 in front of 11,611 people to qualify for the finals for the first time.

"It's very important because this is the only test event for the Olympic football tournament, so the great and the good have come here today," Mr Gidney added.

During the London 2012 Games the stadium - usually known as the Ricoh Arena and the home of Coventry City Football Club - will host 12 matches, including the women's bronze medal play-off.

'Support and confidence'

People descended on Coventry on a rainy afternoon ahead of the 19:45 BST kick off on Monday.

But they came with smiles on their faces, filled with hope for their home countries or just because they felt part of the Olympic dream.

Many of the supporters were visiting Coventry for the first time, including a group of London Senegal fans who believe their team will one day "be one of the best in the world".

Some of those arriving for the match encountered Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, who had come to "offer support and confidence" to his Oman players. He is captain, although he was not due to play.

For once, the stadium was not filled with sky-blue T-shirts, but with specks of red, white, green and black and flags.

Image caption The stadium has been renamed for the purposes of the Olympics

The test game has allowed the organisers to check facilities and prepare for the summer games.

At the pre-match news conference, David Luckes, head of sport competition at Locog, spoke of it being a "big test", sharing what is learnt with other venues across England.

Anthony Mudy, stadium facilities director, said: "After the final whistle on Saturday, we changed the length of the pitch by about 4m to meet international standards.

"All signage and branding have been removed in the bowl for Fifa - either covered or removed.

"All of the Ricoh Arena signs, hand-dryers and televisions will have to be removed for the Olympic Games in the summer.

"If anything is not part of the Olympic commercial family it has to go.

"This test event is a full test for the turnstiles. People will be patted down and bags checked.

"We will replicate this at the game and everyone will then be checked.

"There will be a lockdown a week or so before the start of the Olympic football matches and airport-type scanners will be used for people coming into the building."

There will be restrictions on the three car parks near to the arena, but there are 6,000 parking spaces in off-site car parks.

"We have given over 11,000 tickets to schools and expect around 10,000 -12,000 people, which isn't bad for a wet Monday evening in Coventry," he added ahead of the match.

People living in Coventry appeared to have mixed knowledge and feelings about the 2012 Games coming to the city.

Larysa Paniwnyk, who lives near Tile Hill, said she was not really looking forward to the Olympic matches in Coventry, saying: "It's right in the middle of the summer holidays, so we don't plan to be here at all."

However, Mike Fell, who lives in Longford, near the stadium, had planned to attend the test event saying: "I for one am very, very excited and very pleased to see the Olympics coming to Longford and I think we should be very proud as a city in Coventry."

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