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Originally published February 22, 2011 at 8:17 AM | Page modified February 22, 2011 at 12:51 PM

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Velodrome is first London Olympic Park venue ready

With less than 18 months until the London Games, Chris Hoy tested the new cycling track where he expects world records to tumble and hopes to add to his collection of four Olympic gold medals.

AP Sports Writer

LONDON —

With less than 18 months until the London Games, Chris Hoy tested the new cycling track where he expects world records to tumble and hopes to add to his collection of four Olympic gold medals.

The 6,000-seat, $152 million velodrome was unveiled Tuesday, the first venue completed in the Olympic Park and the arena where the host nation expects to win a stack of medals.

Hoy won three gold medals as a member of the British team that collected seven track cycling titles at the 2008 Beijing Games. He also won a gold in Athens in 2004.

London 2012 organizers are predicting the track will be the fastest in the world.

"It feels very fast ... nice and smooth," Hoy said after completing several laps. "I would imagine - particularly in the team pursuit events - world records going."

The velodrome has a distinctive sweeping roof that will make it one of the signature venues of the Olympic Park in east London. Organizers say the track design as well as temperature and environmental conditions will help cyclists set records.

Hoy worked with designers and architects in preparing the venue.

"Everything we asked for we got and I think they have delivered the best velodrome in the world," he said. "It is a chance to show what we can do with home advantage."

Fellow Beijing gold medalist Victoria Pendleton said it felt effortless going around the track.

"The boards will take a while to settle and really harden," she said. "There's probably a lot of moisture in them still and that's why a velodrome needs to be completed early because the track will get progressively faster now for the next 12 months as the boards get harder."

London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe described the velodrome as "a stunning venue built for champions."

Given Britain's dominance in Beijing, tickets for the cycling events are expected to be among the highest in demand.

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Building work on the velodrome began in March 2009. Tuesday marked the handover of the venue from the Olympic Delivery Authority to the London 2012 organizing committee.

The next step is to install the temporary facilities, including lighting and scoring equipment.

It took a team of 26 carpenters eight weeks to install the track. More than 350,000 nails were used on its surface made of 35 miles of timber.

After the Olympics, the velodrome will be used by elite athletes and the local community and will include a coffee shop, bike rental and cycle workshop facilities.

Other venues nearing completion in the park include the 80,000-seat main stadium, the aquatics center and basketball and handball arenas.

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