By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - The Siberian pine is just divine: that is the overwhelming verdict of riders hurtling round the thrilling new velodrome at the London 2012 Olympics.
Six world records tumbled on the first day of competition, two more fell on the second day.
"It may well be the fastest track in the world. It's gorgeous," declared German team sprint gold medalist Kristina Vogel.
"It's just such a great track. It's easy to ride fast," said Danish rider Michael Morkov, gasping for breath after hurtling around the Thunderdome where Mad Max would have felt right at home.
"It's beautiful, just perfect for Team Pursuit. Just right," said flying Dutchman Jenning Huizenga, pouring sweat, oozing exhilaration.
The accolades just kept rolling in for the design of Australian Ron Webb, who also made the Seoul, Sydney and Athens Olympic tracks as well as some 30 others around the world.
The 56 kilometers of wood from the permafrost of Northern Russia proved to be straight and true. They were fitted like a giant jigsaw with the help of 350,000 nails. The sustainably-sourced wood was laid down with painstaking precision to the millimeter by a team of 26 carpenters.
New Zealand rider Jaime Nielsen said "It is really smooth. We are just loving it," Canadian Gillian Carleton agreed: "The track is really fast and the shape is really nice too. You hold your line very well. It really is a pleasure to ride."
The gravity-defying turns, the roar of the crowd - the velodrome is like a "wall of death" at the circus. You are hit by a thunderous "wall of noise."
Earplugs should be compulsory when Britain is in a final as Chris Hoy or Victoria Pendleton are charging for the line at breakneck speed.
At the start, Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren pops up on screen to say "Shush - for one minute." Then when the race starts, up flashes the message "Make some noise." That certainly is a superfluous instruction.
With its hothouse atmosphere, elegant lines and the deafening roar of devoted fans, the velodrome is proving to be the undisputed star of the Olympic Park.
Horse Guards Parade certainly provides a superb setting for the beach volleyball tournament. The old and new combination of the Royal Naval College and Canary Wharf skyscrapers are a perfect backdrop for the equestrian events, but it is hard to match the 21st-century exhilaration of the cycling venue. It is a real pleasuredome.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)