Sue is going for gold

Olympic Park. Aerial view looking south through the parklands. Picture taken on 5th December 2011 by Anthony Charlton.
Olympic Park. Aerial view looking south through the parklands. Picture taken on 5th December 2011 by Anthony Charlton.

AT 8.30am on July 29, former Brighouse woman Sue Catton will be facing one of the biggest days of her life.

For that is when the first hockey ball will be rolled out onto the new blue hockey pitch at the London Olympics 2012.

Sue Catton from Brighouse - in charge of hockey and wheelchair rubgy for Olympics.

Sue Catton from Brighouse - in charge of hockey and wheelchair rubgy for Olympics.

Sue, who grew up in Rastrick and attended Brighouse Girls’ Grammar School, has spent the past two years in a whirl of planning, meetings, timetables and targets.

In her role as organiser for hockey and wheelchair rugby at the Games, she has been in the thick of it, making sure that the delivery of her sports is on schedule and that the venues are finished on time and on budget. And with just five months to go, she can hardly hide her excitement.

“Working on the 2012 Olympic Games has been a fantastic experience. Just walking round the Olympic Park and seeing all the landscaping that has been carried out alongside the River Lea takes your breath away,” she said.

And the head-turning blue hockey pitch with the bright pink run-off areas? That has come about after a wide consultation with those involved in the sport.

“We have received a lot of positive feedback,” said Sue. “The time was ripe for a change in hockey, having been played on green surfaces since the sport first entered the Olympics.

“There’s been a lot of consultation and obviously visibility for spectators at the arena and on TV has been the main factor.”

Sue, who lives near Sheffield, has been sport-mad since she was a child. Her interest was encouraged by her dad, Rastrick cricketer Trevor Bottomley, and at school she was a keen hockey player. She went to Loughborough University and played hockey to quite a high level.

After teaching for five years at Wakefield Girls’ Grammar School, she got involved in organising six sports for the World Student Games in Sheffield in 1991. Since then she has been involved in numerous tournaments and sporting events and she has also worked as a director for an initiative that helps disabled people get access to appopriate fitness equipment.

In 2008 she spent six weeks at the Beijing Olympics watching the hockey and wheelchair rugby events to see what lessons could be learned in readiness for this year. She came back determined to enhance the viewing experience for hockey spectators and is confident that has been achieved at the spectacular Riverbank Arena alongside the River Lea.

“After football and athletics, hockey has the highest number of tickets available overall. There will be 16,000 tickets for every single session and overall 639,000 tickets are being sold for hockey.

“I think the atmosphere is going to be great and the athletes will really be spurred on to do their best.”

Sue still visits Brighouse frequently to visit her mum Myra and expects the next few months to be very hectic.

“I think the Olympics are going to be a fantastic showcase for both hockey and wheelchair rugby. There are going to be people watching in the stadium, on the large screens outside the hockey centre and on TV across the world.”

In early May the new pitches will be tested by players taking part in an international hockey tournament. For Sue Catton it will be an opportunity to make sure that all the facilities are working to perfection - and the chance to get a foretaste of the special Olympic atmosphere.