Ducks beware: 2012 triathlon heads to Hyde Park

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Triathletes at the 2000 Olympics had to negotiate Sydney's shark-infested harbor, so the ducks and geese of London's Hyde Park seem unlikely to cause much fear in 2012.

Revealing their plans for the first ''downtown'' triathlon since the event's debut at the Sydney Games, the London 2012 Olympic organizers also promised that the park's thriving wildlife would not be unduly disturbed.

''We have no plans to round up the ducks and geese,'' Royal Parks chief executive Mark Camley said. ''They'll waddle off in their own way.''

Hyde Park is set to provide a picturesque backdrop to two of the games' more grueling events: the triathlon and the marathon swim. Its central location, close to Knightsbridge and Marble Arch, could also make those events some of the most popular with the public.

Half a million people lined the streets to watch the triathlon in Sydney. In 2012, a temporary stand overlooking the start-finish line by Hyde Park's Serpentine lake will hold 3,000 spectators, but thousands more will be able to watch along the course.

London 2012 sports director Debbie Jevans described it as ''ultimately a free-ticket event.''

''It's right in the middle of London, you look around you and it's just a wonderful venue,'' said British marathon swimmer Cassie Patten, a bronze medallist at the 2008 Beijing Games. ''I got goosebumps when I arrived this morning, butterflies in my stomach.

''I've swum at Albert Dock in Liverpool in front of maybe 50 people, so to swim in London in front of a home crowd is going to be unreal. Every day when I wake up, it's in the back of my mind, but you've just to keep training as if it wasn't there because you could become overwhelmed by it.''

Patten had to contend with being stung by jellyfish as she captured silver at the 2007 swimming world championships in Melbourne.

Nothing so dangerous lurks in the Serpentine, and the lake's size is likely to provide the main challenge.

''The water here is a really nice quality, a good temperature,'' she said. ''Normally, we do four laps of 2.5 kilometers, here we'll be doing six laps, which obviously means there are more turns.

''But with open water swimming, you have to embrace the fact that no event will be the same as the one before, and we've got two years to get used to it.''

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