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Volume 6 No. 234


If the new artificial pitch at Premiership rugby side Saracens' Allianz Park proves fit as a rugby surface, "it is likely to herald a new era for the sport -- an era without mud," according to Michael Aylwin of the London GUARDIAN. Saracens will unveil its new pitch Sunday against Cardiff Blues, to be played in front of a crowd of 3,500, before the official opening of the 10,000-seat stadium on Feb. 16. What "makes it all so intriguing is that no one has ever seen a proper game of rugby played on such a surface." Fourteen NFL clubs use the same surface, but American football "does not have scrums or line-outs or a culture of rubbing an opponent's face in the mud." Saracens welcomed media and representatives from other clubs to view the new surface Monday. Saracens CEO Ed Griffiths said, "We're very confident that for rugby this is a step forward. It will encourage a faster, safer and more entertaining game of rugby." He added, "We've played on winter pitches where there has been not one blade of grass -- look at Biarritz against Harlequins last weekend. I can't think that's good for rugby. The technology is right now. Hockey has been transformed by artificial surfaces, and I think there is a potential for rugby to be." For the rest of the season, Saracens' home matches are "to become a kind of experiment." The world "will be watching" (GUARDIAN, 1/21).

The London Olympic basketball arena "has been put up for sale," according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Potential purchasers have the option of buying the venue complete with its "distinctive white rippled external shell or bidding instead for the 12,000 seats and internal fittings." GL events Slick Seating, a British company which provided temporary seats for Olympic venues across London, said that it was organizing the sale of the arena. Seeking to "avoid the mistakes of past Games, which were left with sports stadia they did not need, London made extensive use of temporary venues during the Games last summer." Workers on the Olympic Park in East London are in the process of taking down the basketball arena, which will be "stored in central England until a buyer is found." There had been reports that Rio de Janeiro might want to purchase the venue for the 2016 Games, "but restrictions on the import of second-hand materials into Brazil would complicate that" (REUTERS, 1/21).