The banners were slung over the facade to the finish tower while workers continued grinding toward the finish line.
These weren’t rowers aiming to win a gold medal at the World Rowing Championships, which begin with an opening ceremony on Saturday and races on Sunday.
These were the last-minute preparations for the 2017 WRC, scheduled to run until Sunday, Oct. 1, at Nathan Benderson Park.
“Crazy is a good word to describe, but we have a tremendous team,” World Rowing Championships media and public relations manager Max Winitz said. “Obviously, (Hurricane) Irma played a role in delaying some of the construction on the infrastructure. But everybody is working day and night to get this done — and it will be done before Saturday’s opening ceremony.”
Further south from the clanging construction at the finish tower, varying-sized boats sat in a holding pattern awaiting eager WRC participants to take a test drive around the venue’s expansive lake.
Some of the boats for Thursday’s training sessions found their way to the lake throughout the afternoon.
Rowers from South Africa, New Zealand, Russia, Bulgaria, Mexico and more took turns navigating uniform strokes through Benderson Park’s waters against sunbeams poking through overcast skies.
Earlier this week, those that didn’t make the Benderson training sessions practiced at other spots across Florida.
But by Wednesday, all 69 countries and 1,700 delegates arrived in the Sarasota-Bradenton area for the 2017 WRC.
And by Thursday morning, scores of boats were gliding through the water, getting in some last-minute training at Benderson Park.
Workers, wearing hard hats, and volunteers bustled through the venue getting things in order with about two days until Saturday’s opening ceremony.
Obviously, (Hurricane) Irma played a role in delaying some of the construction on the infrastructure. But everybody is working day and night to get this done and it will be done before Saturday’s opening ceremony.
World Rowing Championships media and public relations manager Max Winitz
Among the competing nations, the United States and Great Britain lead the field with the most rowers.
Winitz said the United States has 120 rowers, while Great Britain arrived with a little less than that.
In the women’s eights, Team USA isn’t just a prohibitive favorite to claim gold at the WRC. The squad is part of a dynasty.
Winitz said they’ve won the past 11 Summer Olympics or World Rowing Championships combined.
“Everybody in the U.S. should be rooting for them,” Winitz said.
Aside from the patriotic support, fans should also pay attention to Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez.
Competing in the men’s single sculls, Fournier Rodriguez has risen through the ranks. He’s a multiple-medal holder, claiming two World Cup silvers this season and earning the silver medal at the 2013 World Championships.
Tickets are still available and can be found online at wrch2017.com.
Parking is $5 per day, and the lot is in the grassy area adjacent to Dillard’s in the Mall at University Town Center.
That fee is the lone cost to Saturday’s opening ceremony, which will have the glitz and glamour feel – though not as grand – of an Olympic opening ceremony. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the ceremony commences at 7.
“You’re going to see things on land, on water and in the air without giving too much away,” Winitz said.
The races begin Sunday, and next Wednesday will be a free admission day for all community members.
“After everything that happened with Irma and the resilience we saw in this community, let’s do something special for everybody here,” Winitz said.