By Tom Degun at the Handball Arena in London

london 2012_handball_arena_23-11-111November 23 - The London Handball Cup, the sport's official Olympic test event, got underway here today at the strikingly multi-coloured new Handball Arena in the Olympic Park in Stratford to mark the return of the test event series to the capital.

Following the completion of the first cluster of test events in September, the second cluster began with archery at Lord's Cricket Ground in early October but there has since been nearly a two month long layoff from sporting action.

However, the testing programme is now set to pick up pace again with the five-day international handball competition beginning a run that sees the boxing and table tennis test events get underway tomorrow at the ExCeL in London's Docklands and the fencing test event start on Saturday (November 26), also at the ExCeL.

All four test events, which are non-ticketed, will conclude on Sunday (November 27).

The handball test event sees six of the world's top women's teams battle it out with hosts Great Britain, who will compete in their first Olympic Games next year at London 2012, facing tough opposition in the form of Austria, Angola, China, Poland and Slovakia.

Although no tickets went on sale for the competition, a total of 10,000 tickets over the five days have been donated by London 2012 to local residents, schools and colleges, providing an indication of the rising popularity of handball in the UK.

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The crowd combined to create a deafening atmosphere on day one of the event, which saw China's women defeat Slovakia 28-26 in the first ever match at the venue, before Britain's women sent them home happy by coming from behind to secure a narrow 22-20 win over Angola in a thrilling match.

Debbie Jevans, London 2012 director of sport, said that her team is using the London Handball Cup primarily to test equipment, scoreboards, results, workforce and officials, which she stated are all an integral part of preparation for the Games.

"Running a test event in the Handball Arena is not only vital for us in terms of testing the venue and our operational readiness, it is also a chance for local people to witness world class sport in an Olympic venue," said Jevans.

"The Handball Arena is an amazing facility which will be used as a multisport venue after the Games.

"It is exciting to see it being tried out competitively for the first time."

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The Handball Arena was the third Olympic Park venue to be completed in May 2011 and will have a 6,500 capacity at Games time.

The venue will host the preliminary rounds and quarterfinals of the handball competition during the Olympics and will also be the venue for the fencing discipline of modern pentathlon.

During the Paralympic Games it will be the venue for goalball.

After the Games, capacity will be increased to accommodate up to 7,500 spectators as it becomes a multiuse venue for community use, athletic training and events.

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