By Tom Degun at Hyde Park in London

Open_water_swimming_in_Hyde_Parks_Serpentine_12-08-11August 12 - Charlotte O'Neill, the London 2012 Aquatics Manager, has promised that organisers are making the safety of the athletes their number one priority ahead of the Olympic marathon swimming test event in the Serpentine at Hyde Park this weekend following the death of one of the sport's top stars Fran Crippen last year.

The 26-year-old American, who was a strong contender to win gold at the London 2012 Olympics, died during a 10 kilometres open water race in the United Arab Emirates last October after losing consciousness mid-race.

The tragic incident was the first death in the 102-year history of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) and the governing body for the sport set up a task force to produce a report into the death of the World Championship medallist.

The task force report - which was published this year - warned that "there is an urgent need for an organisational commitment to athlete safety" in the event but the London 2012 Aquatics Manager has assured there will be just that for the 2012 Olympic event.

"The nature of marathon swimming is that every course is different and that is what makes it so exciting," O'Neill told insidethegames.

"So when you come to plan your safety measures, they are specifically tailored around that particular course and that particular environment.

"At Hyde Park, high temperatures of air and water are not something we are likely to encounter like in the United Arab Emirates but there are other challenges for us and we have addressed them carefully and accordingly.

"We are continuing to work closely with FINA and the other relevant authorities on this and rest assured that the safety of the athletes is our number one priority."

David Luckes, the London 2012 Head of Sport Competition, said: "We will have a lot of water safety officers out on the water during the test event and there will obviously be there again at the Olympics.

"They will make sure that should there be any issue or any incident, there is a very quick response from the medical team.

"That is very important for us."

Spyridon_Gianniotis_open_water_swimmer_12-08-11The 10km test event in the Serpentine tomorrow will be free for the public to watch from the edge of the water with organisers stating that some of the best views are on the north side of the lake.

A total of 40 world-class competitors, featuring Olympic and World Championship medallists, will line up to tackle six laps of the 1.67km course with the women's starts at 10am and the men's race to begin at 2pm.

In the men's race, Shanghai 2011 Open Water world champion Spyridon Gianniotis (pictured) of Greece will be one of the favourites for victory alongside German Thomas Lurz, who won bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

In the women's race, the silver and bronze medallists from the 2011 Shanghai World Championships, Martina Grimaldi of Italy and Marianna Lymperta of Greece, come into the race as favourites.

Britain's Kerri-Ann Payne, who won gold ahead of the pair in Shanghai to become world champion and therefore qualify for the London 2012 Olympic marathon swimming event in the Serpentine, is currently resting along with several others from the British squad.

But despite the absence of 23-year-old Payne, who won Olympic silver in the event and will be gold medal favourite at London 2012, the British crowd will still have athletes to cheer as Rachel Williamson and Lucy Charles, both of whom are from the British Swimming development squad, will compete in the event.

"We are delighted to be able to run such an event with a high level of international athletes and look forward to giving the public an opportunity to witness world-class sport for free this weekend," added Luckes.

Contact the writer of this article a [email protected]

Related stories
April 2011: Urgent need for a commitment to safety following Crippen death conclude Task Force
January 2011: London 2012 Serpentine open water event under intense scrutiny following Crippen death
October 2010: London 2012 medal contender dies in open water event