Fireworks closing the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.
This is the fourth time that the World Championships have been raced in Bled, but this year the added element of achieving Olympic qualification spots has upped the pressure and expectations on the 1200 athletes involved.

Racing begins tomorrow, 28 August at 9.30am (CET) with heats for the lightweight men’s single sculls. The first day of racing includes a total of 58 races in 15 events and at the end of the day two crews will already have qualified for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The women’s quadruple sculls event has two heats and the winner of each heat will not only go directly to the final on Thursday, but they will also earn a spot for their country at the Olympics. Early season racing indicates that the two powerful rowing nations of Germany and Great Britain are likely to be the early qualifiers. 

Many crews arrived over a week ago to acclimatise and adapt to their surroundings, taking over the small tourist town of Bled situated at an elevation of 500 metres above sea level. They have been enjoying balmy temperatures of about 30 degrees Celsius with temperatures expected to cool to the low 20s for the start of racing.

Candles on the lake and the peaceful church on its island during the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.
Five adaptive rowing events will also take place with these athletes aiming for qualifying spots in the 2012 Paralympic Games. The first adaptive races will take place on Monday 29 August.

Racing continues for a week with the first finals taking place on Thursday 1 September and continuing until Sunday 4 September.

The official opening ceremony of the World Championships is due to take place this evening with the president of the Republic of Slovenia, Danilo Turk giving the welcoming address followed by performances, lights and fireworks.

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