Handball teams bid farewell to “best” Copper Box

LONDON , England   ●   World handball player of the year Mikkel Hansen rates it better than Beijing, Norwegian women’s coach Thorir Hergeirsson loves the colours, and grown men like to dress in children’s costumes. London’s Copper Box arena has certainly rocked.

After the women’s quarter-finals finished on Tuesday the action switches to the visually spectacular and higher capacity Basketball Arena, also in the Olympic Park.

The players are unconcerned about the change in venue and will be delighted to strut their stuff in front of 12,000 fans instead of the 4,000 that have inhabited the Copper Box since July 28 from early morning to late at night.

But they have been blown away by the support in the arena that in just 48 hours will be transformed to host the already sold-out Modern Pentathlon.

“It’s on another level completely compared to Beijing. I prefer it,” said Hansen, who when asked what was the difference replied “the atmosphere.”

“It’s crowded here,” added the 24-year-old European Championship winner, whose Danish team will face Sweden in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Hergeirsson, the Icelandic coach of the Olympic, world and European champions, said he loved the layout and colourful presentation.

“This is the best arena we’ve played for a long, long time because it’s so intimate and always full. I like the coloured seats too,” he said.

Compatriot Gudmundur Gudmundsson, in charge of the Icelandic men’s team tilt to claim the tiny volcanic country’s first Olympic gold medal, said he had barely experienced anything like it in four previous Games.

“This is my fifth Olympics and I have to say this is probably the best atmosphere in five Games,” he said.

International Handball Federation President Hassan Moustafa has attended each day and the venue has seen French President Francois Hollande, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark pass through its doors.

Moustafa, who wrote about handball for his masters degree, has never seen anything like it.

“No one from the IHF expected to have anything like this level of success,” he told Reuters, practically screaming as the music cranked up several notches during the halftime break in the women’s quarter-final between South Korea and Russia.

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