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2012 transport planning 'a big mistake'

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Adrian Warner | 10:00 UK time, Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Transport has always been the biggest challenge of the London Olympics.

Transport has always been the biggest challenge of the London Olympics. Getty Images.

I think Olympic organisers have made a big mistake with their transport planning for 2012.

It is announced today that the Olympic Route Network (ORN), with its exclusive lanes for athletes, officials and VIPS, will not be introduced until just two days before the opening ceremony on 27 July.

Beijing had its lanes in place 19 days before the opening ceremony in 2008. Athens gave its residents 11 days to get used to them before the 2004 Games started and last year's Vancouver Winter Games introduced restrictions a week before the Games.

Although the announcement will please Londoners who have been worried about how the lanes will affect their businesses, there is a real danger that, without them, the week before the Games will be dominated by transport stories.

Don't forget that a week before the Games, many of the athletes will already be in town travelling to venues for training. The world's media will also be getting used to their daily commute to the Olympic sites.

Without Olympic lanes in place, there is a danger they are going to be late for their appointments.

Transport has always been the biggest challenge of the London Olympics. Being late matters if you are an athlete with a designated training time and it will also become an issue if international reporters end up in traffic jams.

The 12 Olympic Games I have covered have all had the same theme. The week before the Games is like "silly season" for the media. Often there aren't many stories about so everybody is looking for something to focus on before the Games get under way.

In the past I have seen quite small issues suddenly become big news on TV, radio and newspapers across the world.

Even if there are just small transport problems, there is a good chance they are going to get plenty of coverage.

So, the danger for 2012 is that the build-up to the Games is dominated by transport hiccups before the ORN is even in place.

That won't be good for the image of London and the Games, even if the ORN subsequently solves many of the problems in the 48 hours before the opening ceremony.

The damage to the capital's reputation will have been done.

I understand that the organising committee (LOCOG) wanted the lanes in place between one week and two weeks before the opening ceremony - that would have given London drivers time to get used to them and enabled the world to arrive with all restrictions in place.

Clearly, Olympic officials are keen to keep Londoners happy. Of course, many will understand that because taxpayers have dug deep into their pockets for the Games and 2012 want a happy London to welcome the world.

But leaving the introduction of the ORN so late is a gamble which 2012 may regret.

Visit: BBC London 2012
Twitter: @BBCLdnOlympics


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This was always going to be one of the huge problems of the games. London as a city is not designed for this. I foresee massive issues come summer next year.

  • Comment number 3.

    This article is so typical of the egocentric media. At most olympics, with the exception of Beijing, the paying public always face transport delays and very long commuting times. Barcelona was heralded as a huge success by the media as they were not subjected to daily commutes of upto 2 hours on over crowded trains.Yes the Barcelona games were great from a sporting perspective, but you were lucky if you got 4 hours sleep a night. In Atlanta, thankfully, the media were also subject to delays. All subsequent games have ensured the Media would get an almost VIP transport treatment.

  • Comment number 4.

    What a selfish, narrow-minded piece of journalism. Just as long as the sports media is all right, eh? "Giving residents time to get used to it"? - how very generous of you. I suppose the huge amount of UK GDP that would be lost through closing traffic routes for a week or more before the Games, all at the expense of the London taxpayers who have actually funded them in the first place (and can't even get tickets), would be of no material consequence for the media to consider reporting. (What are the headlines in all the newspapers this morning?). Like another poster, I was in Atlanta, and the reports about delays and poor organisation were basically a myth, whipped up by a media intent on enforcing their "right" to red carpet treatment.

  • Comment number 5.

    In Sydney Australia when they hosted the Olympics the Government was very excited and provided many plans for travel success. But one of the key reasons for the successful Olympics was the Sydney Aussies being smart enough to get of of dodge so they skipped town for 2 weeks up the goldy coasty and went fishaling.
    I would suggest we all do the same. Scotland here I come to avoid the Olympic stress of 2012 which will be more akin to Atlanta Olympics on steroids!!! Sorry taxi bus and courier drivers - better start selling food/drink on board cos your customers will better off walking.

  • Comment number 6.

    "That won't be good for the image of London and the Games"

    Who on earth cares? Except solipsistic journalists, of course.

    Are you seriously arguing that the preposterous inconvenience - and loss of business - Londoners are already doomed to should be made worse to pander the whims of the media? The very people, you might remember, responsible for the absurd closure of Russell Square from early July so it can be turned into a VIP coach park for journalists too lazy to use the tube like everyone else?

    With warnings from almost everyone, from tour operators to theatre owners, of the damage these Games are doing to London's real economy, only someone as insulated from the real world as a BBC journalist could seriously argue for closing London's road system even a second earlier than is absolutely essential.

    The gamble we'll all regret is the decision to allow Soviet-style privilege for bureaucrats at all. The "image" a few headlines about traffic jams might create matters a great deal less than the reality of modern London modelling its traffic management on Brezhnev-era Moscow.

  • Comment number 7.

    So we build an athelete's village ajoining the stadium and have numerous quality hotels around Canary Wharf but still require car lanes for the hangers on. If the 'VIP's' need to stay in Park Lane why don't we coach them down to the Thames and use river transport? I will be one of the many Londoners leaving the country for the period. Thanks Lord Coe and Tessa Jowell, I hope your ego's are well and truly satisfied.

  • Comment number 8.

    Why don't these people just leave slightly earlier so that they aren't late. There, all sorted.

  • Comment number 9.

    your reports are usually very good, but i think you are scaremongering this time adrian...

  • Comment number 10.

    Olympic planners and the British Government should NEVER have agreed to letting the IOC stay in Mayfair area & this would not be a problem. Why should the British Taxpayer pay for IOC junkets? So much corruption & looking after those at the top of the food chain - what the Olympics should really be about has been forgotten.

    It stinks.

  • Comment number 11.

    Seems that the early posters think that holding the Olympics in London is a really good idea??
    Olympics for the masses, forget it, it's for those with access to the hospitality tent.

  • Comment number 12.

    I remember thinking in 2005 how on earth will London cope with the increase in travel, now we have the answer. The people of London will have to put up with it.
    Who exactly decided we wanted these games ?
    No one asked me, otherwise I would have told them let Paris have them.

  • Comment number 13.

    I do not agree with your view, most of the London economy is unlikely to benefit from this event in any way. Traffic should be kept moving for as long as possible before the circus comes to town.

    A lot of the congestion could have been avoided if the press and IOC stayed away from central London.

    As we have all bought your ticket Adrian I hope that you do your bit and use the tube, queuing up for half an hour like the rest of us. Unlikely I think.

  • Comment number 14.

    We were never asked. George Stroud must be spinning in his grave - a stadium on the site of his pig farm?

  • Comment number 15.

    This beyond a joke. These wretched games are costing us a fortune at a time when the country can ill afford it and now we learn that it will cost us even more in delays for those of trying to earn a living. The Olympic organising crowd refuse to answer questions (private company, guv, not subject to FOI inquiries) - how very convenient in keeping the real costs secret from the people paying! The whole thing is a farce and the sooner it disappears the better. Oh, and a small bet, it will cost much, much more than the budget but Seb and his friends will be elevated to be part of the royal family as a reward.

  • Comment number 16.

    Mr Warner.
    As London taxpayers, we were told these games were about legacy and sustainability.
    As a public servant, salary paid by my license fee, please ask LOCOG about the thousands of Olympic Park temporary toilets that are scheduled to go to landfill post games, the business connections of Lord Coe and one of his closest friends regarding corporate ticket packages and the actual cost to London businesses of the traffic disruption.
    Your coverage thus far has been so sychophantically pro London 2012 as to appear that you have a personal vested interest. I'm sure this cannot be the case and you have a few months left now to behave as a true investigative journalist rather than an apparent LOCOG press relaese announcer....

    Thanks and Regards,
    Concerned Viewer.

  • Comment number 17.

    Daveydill, you say you are a concerned viewer which I am sure you are but you clearly haven't been viewing very much of my work in the last 5 years to suggest I am somehow "pro London 2012 with a personal vested interest." But I have been called anti-2012, pro-2012, anti-olympics, pro-olympics so many times that I must be doing my job right somehow. The fact is I obviously am very interested in the Olympics because I wouldn't have covered 12 Games if I wasn't. But my job is to ask all the questions which Londoners ask. Take a more detailed look at my record and the stories I have broken and I think you might reconsider your strong words.

  • Comment number 18.

    Is it possible that Locog, TfL and the IOC just want us all to go away and leave them with the keys to this city? I'm sure they just want somewhere to play their Games!

    So, with that in mind, maybe it is time that we did something like the Ancient Greeks did when they held the original Olympics at Olympus, and dedicate six permanent sites - three in each of the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and one in each hemisphere for the Summer, Winter and Paralympic Games. The Games could then alternate between the Southern and Northern sites every four years.

    Then share the costs amongst the participating nations. Maybe then we will all be able to get the games in perspective.

  • Comment number 19.

    Thank you Adrian for posting your concerns, lets hope someone listens. Whether we like them or not the Olympics are coming and we need to ensure we get the most out of them. To highlight London as a great place for leisure and business with good transport links and excellant facilities is surely the aim? Do I hear groans and disagreement? Well if I do, what do you want our city to be?

    Be assured that if something goes wrong over the Olympic period the world will know about it and never forget. I live in fear of "Due to a signaling problem at Stratford the final of the mens 100 metres has been delayed". We should do all we can to make sure this opportunity gets us maximum benefits.

  • Comment number 20.

    In response to Mike, yes I do think London hosting the games is a really good idea. I also think we will put on a very good games for the purists and general public. I dont care if the media are inconvenienced a week before the games, as long as it runs smoothly during the games.

    Very few people care about actual supporters, yet if they didn't turn up at these games, " Empty Stadia" becomes the headline.

  • Comment number 21.

    On the contrary - let the hacks & hangers on suffer before the games so they appreciate the privilege they're receiving during the games. Plus, put the restrictions in place when there's nothing to show for it & you might find the 99.999% getting organized and occupying the streets in protest.

  • Comment number 22.

    Mr Warner.

    Thanks for your response.
    Given the privileged access that you have to all the relevant 'movers and shakers', (no doubt hard earned after covering all those 12 Games), do you intend to address any of the questions that I've posed above, on behalf of the tax and/or license fee payer? (I have many others)!
    It's been a rare evening in the past 5 years when I've missed the BBC London evening news, so, please feel free to forward to me, and/or provide links via this medium, deatails of any instances where you have thoroughly investigated and reported any relevant issues that must have escaped my notice.
    Also please be aware that I am closely familiar with and aware of editorial policy and control at the local studios of the corporation, so please don't take this correspondence too personally. Rather, please share this with senior colleagues.

    Hoping to hear from you soon, whilst acknowledging that you'll be busy delivering quality first...


  • Comment number 23.

    Lets all hope everything works out fine.


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