Hockey site great, but traffic not

Athletes at the field hockey test event complained yesterday that the playing field was «spongy» and that travel time between the Olympic Village and the seaside venue was too long. «It’s very spongy and quite thick. It’s a little different to what we train on in Perth. So we’re going to have to look at other avenues to train on a similar pitch,» said Australia’s Katrina Powell. Australia lost to Spain 1-0, but Powell said it was more important to «be in Athens to play on the turf.» All athletes praised the venue itself, which was built at the site of Athens’s former Hellenikon airport. It is part of a complex that includes venues for the basketball preliminaries, softball and baseball. The sports complex’s construction suffered years of delay after local residents angry with some projects fought and lost a succession of court battles. «I love the venue. It actually reminds me of the Sydney Olympic stadium and I hear they actually modeled it a bit on that stadium,» Powell said. Spain’s Silvia Munoz called the field «soft» but said, «I think it’s new,» and the team’s performance should improve with practice. Athens’s notorious traffic was a concern for many athletes, who worried about getting to the venue on time during the Olympics. Athletes will stay at the Olympic Village, located about 25 kilometers (15.6 miles) from the hockey facility. «This is a problem, traffic. .. We go to the village, it is very far, one-and-a-half hours,» Munoz said. Powell said traffic was a concern for the Australian team too. «I think it’s going to be a long trip for us down here to the hockey and that is probably our major concern at this stage,» Powell said. «The pitch is down, the stadium is pretty much ready, hopefully the village will be built. So the travel is our next worry.» She added that security was not an issue. «At the moment, the world’s eye is not on Athens, but I am pretty confident they will have everything under control security-wise,» Powell said. Test events are needed to assess venues and make changes if needed before the Olympics. The hockey test event ends on Sunday. Organizers will also be testing badminton and volleyball venues this week.