First look inside Woolwich Common’s Olympic shooting venue

Over the past few months, neighbours have watched in puzzlement as the Olympic venue on Woolwich Common has risen from the ground. The huge structures will play host to shooting and Paralympic archery events between July and September, with Olympics organisers taking over much of the common. On Saturday, groups of neighbours, from Charlton and Woolwich, were among the first to see inside the arenas.

While the ructions over Greenwich Park have hogged the limelight, the works taking place in Woolwich are much more complex. Construction is almost complete on the two arenas on the common, with the Olympic Delivery Authority about to hand over the keys to organisers LOCOG. Work is also continuing on another, open air, shooting range inside Woolwich Barracks itself, with huge nets being erected to protect the public from stray shots – and to make it easier to clean up.

The biggest white structure – which at 26 metres high, dominates views from Charlton House and the slopes of Shooters Hill – is the finals hall. Its distinctive design – with two fabric skins built around a steel structure – helps ventilation and allows the temperature to stay constant. The pushed-out rings stop the skin from flapping. This is where the first medals of London 2012 will be won – around 11am on 28 July 2012, in the women’s 10 metre air rifle contest.

This hall will play host to the 10 metre, 25 metre and 50 metre air rifle finals. The three concrete strips on the synthetic turf mark each distance. The other ranges will at least partly be open to the elements – shooting manager Peter Underhill says “We don’t want quiet, we want noise”, adding that dealing with the elements is part of the skill of shooting. But the finals hall is inside for the benefit of television. At the centre left of the photo above, you may just be able to see where a target has been fixed to the wall.

Above you can just about see the top of the structure (in white), where the scoreboard will go.

Here’s where the 2,800 spectators will sit – entering via the “hobbit holes” at the bottom, looking down at the action below. Up to 4,000 spectators will be on the common at any one time, with organisers creating a “plaza” for them at the entrance at the Woolwich end of Ha Ha Road, which will be closed for the Games. Shuttle buses will run from Woolwich Arsenal station. Repository Road, through the barracks, will be closed while events are on, from 9am-6pm. Athletes will enter the site via Charlton Park Lane.

Next to the finals hall is the hall for the rapid fire pistol competition.

This can accomodate 800 spectators, but here the targets are open to the elements – although it’s only really possible to appreciate this if you move up close…

Once again, spectators will enter via “hobbit holes” at the back. As with Greenwich Park during the summer, there will be a test event at Woolwich – the ISSF Shooting World Cup – from 17-29 April, with 700 athletes putting the facilities through their paces.

Once the test events are done, the venue opens for training on 16 July – the same day as the Olympic Park. After the Paralympics are over, the aim is for Woolwich Common to be fully returned to the public from March 2013. A number of trees have been felled to accommodate the construction site, with the Olympic Delivery Authority pledging to plant one and half new trees for every one that has been taken down.

Clearly there’ll be some disruption with road closures across the common. If you’re a bus user, here’s some maps of what TfL has planned for Woolwich Common and Queen Elizabeth Hospital during games time – these haven’t been officially confirmed yet, but were sent out to local councils some time ago.

While Greenwich has definitely hogged the limelight, Woolwich’s role in next year’s games will come to the forefront soon. After a terrible year in SE18, many locals will be hoping the arrival of thousands of athletes and spectators will give the place a desperately-needed lift in 2012.


  1. I’m sure the building is fit for purpose and everything but I’m afraid that it looks like dismembered bits of corpse with measles on the outside. Inside looks better. Well written report, Darryl. The “ructions” over Greenwich Park provided this venue with a very convenient smokescreen to hide the scandal of the 50 trees felled here. Hope the organisers do not renege on the deal to plant one and a half trees for every tree that was slaughtered to make way for these buildings (50 trees cut down, so they should replace 75). Also hope the shuttle bus fares are not a rip-off – captive audience and all that. What kind of netting stops “stray shots”? Baffling.

  2. Glad you got along to this. My wife went and was really impressed by the tour that LOCOG gave.

    I know people have been belly-aching about the design, but the holes are there for a purpose (natural ventilation). I particularly like the fact that the whole thing is going to be recycled in that it will be going up to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games.

    Another ‘nice’ thing is that this is the first Olympics where the shooters will be staying with all the other athletes. They’re going to be bussed in from the Olympic Village each day.

    Apparently in all other Olympics the shooters have been banished to army barracks in the middle of nowehere!

  3. We call it Tellytubby land! with a rousing chorus of the theme tune every time we drive past!

  4. Spot the NOGOE sock puppet.

    As someone who lives just off the common, I’m delighted by how these building have come on, great news about the replacement trees, and the work on improving the space around the common.

  5. I’m sure NOGOE are big enough to speak for themselves and don’t need to hide behind other identities! Yes, it is great “news” about the replacement trees, but personally I will hold off celebrating until their actual arrival in the ground. Call me an old cynic if you like…

  6. Such a shame it will all be dismantled after the event to ensure that British shooting sports don’t have a lasting legacy from the games.

  7. “Another ‘nice’ thing is that this is the first Olympics where the shooters will be staying with all the other athletes. They’re going to be bussed in from the Olympic Village each day.”

    1976 in Montreal the shooters stayed in the Olympic Village and were bussed to the ranges with a police escort in front, behind and overhead! 1972 (Munich) the shooters also stayed in the Village. I do not know about any others.

  8. As usual the shooters of this country have been completely ignored over the venue, allowing spectator access and the legacy after the games.
    The money that has been spent could and should have been used to to bring the facilities at Bisley to International Standards.
    Accomodation could be provided at Surrey University in nearby Guildford.
    Money could be saved on a permanent facility that really has something to offer afterwards.
    Who do we blame. Quitter Coe?

  9. all such a waste of or money – money that could have given the shooting sports in this country a valuable legacy – I can only assume there is a vested interest at worlk here

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