Rio 2016; Model testing Rio 2016 slalom course

Photo: Whitewater Parks International
Photo: Whitewater Parks International

Rio 2016 canoe slalom course undergoes innovative model testing in Czech Republic

US-based specialists produce scale model of Olympic Whitewater Stadium course with help from two Czech world champions

A scale model of the Rio 2016 Olympic canoe slalom course, a key element of the X-Park that will be located within the Deodoro Olympic Park, has undergone extensive testing in a laboratory at Prague’s Czech Technical University. Commissioned by specialist whitewater designers John Felton and Bob Campbell, whose US-based company was behind the London 2012 slalom course design, the 1:13 model (one 13th the size of the real thing) has helped to confirm that the Rio course will meet Olympic technical specifications.

For the first time, obstacles were magnetically attached to the model’s metal base plates, allowing the research team, led by Czech world champion father-and-son canoeists Jaroslav Pollert Senior and Junior, to quickly reposition them and better observe the water flow in a range of scenarios (see a video of the project here). Obstacles will also be interchangeable, albeit not magnetically, on the finished course, enabling it to be tailored for different watersports.

“We’re always trying to improve on the previous version,” said managing director Campbell. “London was the best we had done up to then, but this time we have been able to slightly narrow the channels and reduce the overall height with no loss of performance, which will help reduce costs. We have introduced efficiencies that will help commercial viability for the legacy operator. It would be great to realise that same legacy for Rio.”

Many of the successful elements of the design for the London 2012 venue at Lee Valley have also been applied to the planning of the Rio 2016 venue. “The London course shined during the 2012 Games, but it has also left a huge legacy for anyone wanting to experience whitewater rafting or canoeing, and even for training rescue teams,” said Campbell.

Sebastián Cuattrin, Rio 2016 Canoe Sport Manager, competed in four Olympic Games, finishing eighth in the K1 sprint competition at Atlanta 1996. “The testing in the Czech Republic is very important because it’s through this model that the International Federation can confirm that its technical requirements are being met. They are testing the behaviour of the water in relation to the obstacles. It’s crucial,” he said.

The Rio Olympic Whitewater Stadium will feature 280m of artificially created rapids, with all the water being pumped from a 25,000m3 lake nearby. Fully modular, man-made obstacles will be placed along the channel to simulate the rocks found on natural rapids, creating waves, pools and eddies through which athletes have to race on a designated route from top to bottom.

Preparative workstarted at the site in August, with earth clearing and the installation of construction infrastructure, and final construction drawings are due to be delivered in November. The finished project is set for delivery in February 2016, with a test event scheduled for November 2015.

“Test events are an opportunity to adjust and perfect the venue and its operations in order to have everything 100 per cent ready, without surprises, for the Games,” said Roberto Ainbinder, Olympic Project Integration Director at the Municipal Olympic Company (EOM) in Rio de Janeiro.

“The canoe slalom course is a complex venue, with sophisticated electrical and hydraulic equipment that need to be exhaustively tested before they enter regular use. This is true for the Games and for the legacy usage, when the canoe course, together with the Olympic BMX Centre, will comprise the X-Park, which will be open to the general public.”