By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Construction on the Olympic Tennis Centre, the 10,000-seat centre court arena has moved into the next stage as the structure starts to take shape, and organizers report work is progressing well on the other courts, with foundations completed and the base levels that sit under the courts being laid.
Brazilian tennis star Gustavo Kuerten, the former world no.1 and three-time French Open champion, shared his optimism for the arena with the Rio 2016 media team. “The legacy can be game-changing, … both in terms of the impact it will have on enthusiasm for tennis and in physical terms, because the Olympic Tennis Centre will serve as a flagship training centre and a home for competitions that up to now have not been staged in Brazil.”
As well as the showpiece Centre Court, the Olympic Tennis Centre will comprise Court 1, a temporary structure with 5,000 seats, and Court 2, which will have 3,000 temporary seats but whose court will remain after the Games. There will also be seven outside competition courts, each with 250 temporary seats, plus six practice and warm-up courts.
The Olympic Tennis Centre will be the largest purpose-built, permanent tennis venue in Brazil and will allow Rio to host major international tournaments long after the Games have finished, something that was confirmed by Juan Margets, Executive Vice President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
“We took the legacy very seriously from the first discussions about this venue,” Margets told rio2016.com. “It was important that this facility could host major tour events if one day the circumstances arise… Along with Parque Roca in Buenos Aires, it will be the major tennis facility on the continent.”
Margets was in Rio mid-October to see the construction progress and meet with Games organizers. He stressed there was still plenty of work to be done but said “overall it was very positive” before highlighting the fact that tennis would be within Barra Olympic Park, the largest of the four zones for the sporting event.
Despite the lack of a long legacy and current contender on the global tennis stage, the upcoming Olympic Games may well give the sport a boost. In August 2016, when Rio de Janeiro hosts sport’s oldest tournament, far more will be on the city’s agenda than football (soccer) and volleyball.