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London passes early tests but big challenges to come

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David Bond | 09:43 UK time, Wednesday, 17 August 2011

London 2012's series of test events has been going well.

From equestrian at Greenwich back in July, to triathlon in Hyde Park, beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade and men's road cycling on Sunday - all have been well-supported and have gone smoothly.

But Monday's basketball was the first competitive action within the Olympic park and the first time that large numbers of spectators have been given a taste of what their experience of the Games might be like.

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The 3,000 fans were greeted by airport-style security checks - body searches, bag scans and metal detectors. Most seemed reassured but one or two grumbled about the amount of time it took to get into the venue.

Understandably following last week's riots, senior security staff were keeping a close eye on how their systems worked, especially in light of revelations that police had sent officers to protect the Olympic Park after discovering it was a target for rioters.

Organisers are confident delays getting into the park will be kept to a minimum during the Games because, unlike is often the case at football matches, they believe fans will want to come early and stay to soak up the atmosphere.

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As for the basketball arena itself, it is another impressive achievement even if the outer meringue-style wrap is a poor imitation of the water cube aquatics centre in Beijing.

But it does seem a bit excessive to spend £42m on a temporary venue which will not even host the finals of the men's and women's basketball tournaments - its capacity is too small and so those showpiece matches will be played at the O2 (to be known as the North Greenwich Arena during the Olympics because of sponsorship rules).

Even more remarkable perhaps is the fact that the venue will be ripped down and sold off after the Games. Organisers always said they wanted to avoid white elephants and different parts of the arena will be broken down and recycled - with Rio de Janeiro, who will host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, likely to take some of its parts.

All that can wait, of course, with the eyes of the world increasingly focused on Britain's capital and its preparations for the Games. Most people I speak to are impressed by what they have seen and the response to last week's trouble. But this time next year more than a quarter of a million people will be in the park at the same time.

Hosting one-off dress rehearsals is one thing but staging 26 different sports, in one city, at the same time is a different logistical challenge altogether.


  • Comment number 1.

    As someone who'll be attending the basketball next year and was at Eurobasket 2009 in Warsaw, the security was a bit nitpicky there as well, particularly with us Brits it seemed, so I doubt Olympic security will by anything I can't live with.

  • Comment number 2.

    When you consider that the total cost of staging the Olympics submitted by the London 2012 bid team was £2.375 billion pounds, which of course has risen to £9.302 billion pounds, then £42 million is a pittance. You should be ashamed of yourself David for even mentioning it.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think after 7/7 being so close to the announcement that London had won, we have been expecting tight security. As long as people arrive early and the TV cameras don't show half empty venues things will be fine.

    What is not clear about these test events is:
    1) How we're we susposed to get tickets? Have they been allocated to local children or something?
    2) How do they simulate the extra million or so people impacting on the local area, including Heathrow? - crowd control of people in their seats is easy. 30,000 people hanging about outside with suspicious rucksacks is a lot trickier. Is the Olympic Park ticket only?

  • Comment number 4.

    I’ve been to 2 test events - mountain biking and beach volleyball. Security at beach volleyball was very picky - above airport security ('can you take your watch off please?') and I suspect getting 15k people rather than 1.5k in there with that level of security is going to take a very long time. However I think most people will turn up early given that so many people will only be attending one event but the difficulty for some venues will be when multiple sessions are held in one day like the beach volleyball and there is a quick turnover between sessions.

    Overall the events were great entertainment and I’m only sorry I won’t be going next year to see the real thing.

  • Comment number 5.

    Over-zealous security is a disease in this country. Why do we have to ditch water, metal, razors and many more items at airport security when you can pop into Boots in the departure lounge and buy them there anyway?

    I am a volunteer at the BMX test event this week and visited the Olympic Park last Saturday. Security was disappointing and it's the lack of consistency that bothers me. The lady in front had to put her coffee - yes, coffee - through the bag machine, yet I walked through with a bottle of water.

    And I accidentally left my ring on yet was waived through. Why make me remove coins, belt and watch in that case?

    I really hope this isn't the same at the main event. It was one of the things criticised in Beijing and we want to be better at letting people enjoy the event openly. The last thing we want to do is replicate airport security.

    Agree about the splendor of the Basketball Arena, by the way.

  • Comment number 6.

    David, surprised this blog has taken quite as long as it has to come.

    As #4 (WGCFlyer) says, airport security was in operation at the Beach Volleyball on Saturday and the issue wasn't that they were picky (polite and asking giving everyone clear plastic bags to put all the objects from their pockets into), but that in true airport security style some of the Mag'n'Bag points weren't open - of the four there, only two were open most of the time, occasionally a third.

    As for the Basketball arena, you were a little disingenuous on the Ten O'Clock news last night to say that it will be "torn down"; it gives the impression that the bulldozers will come in and knock it to the ground. Yes, it will be dismantled and reused, but that is a very different story from "torn down".

  • Comment number 7.

    MyVoiceinYrHead- I’m Disappointed.

    How we're we supposed to get tickets?

    Well these test events have been clearly advertised on the London 2012 website for a substantial period. The ticketing agency ‘ticket master’ has also advertised the dates and prices for the test events.

    Furthermore, as an avid Olympic fan I was fully aware of stadiums having to be tested prior to the games. Therefore, I closely followed a number of sporting organisations within Britain in order to access information about up and coming events. I thank you.

  • Comment number 8.

    P.S The basketball was fun, the security was necessary. Only 1 tiny problem, the sound wasn't great in the arena. Struggled to hear the announcements when sitting up high.

  • Comment number 9.

    42 million quid to hire a tent?

    Like the rest of it, an appalling waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere as recent events have illustrated.

    Montreal is still effectively bankrupt from their 1976 expenditure only paying off the interest on the loans in 2006. Athens?

    Tessa Jowell, the British government minister for the Olympics, admitted in November that, in hindsight, the city made a mistake by bidding for the Olympics, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Would we have bid for the Olympics?” she asked. “Almost certainly not.”

  • Comment number 10.

    I have to admit the first thing I thought when I read of this event was "Why have they built a new arena when the o2 hosts NBA teams and will be available?". Seems daft building it if it can't host the finals.

    The second thing I thought of was "Why only 3,000 tickets?" I don't know how valid anything learned will be, because getting people through security, queueing at food and drink stalls etc will be completely different. The year before the FIFA World Cup, the Confederations Cup takes place - they have full crowds in the stadia and test everything, from airport capacity to food concessions, in order to make sure the World Cup goes smoothly.

    The third and final thing I thought was "Six of the best teams in the World? Don't they mean five decent teams and GB?" Aiming for a medal is (sadly) setting themselves up for a massive fall I think.

  • Comment number 11.

    To compare it to the water cube is ignorant of the fact this is a temporary venue, not permanent as in China. It is also ignorant of the disproportionate budgets of the 2 games. In Games mode Basketball will have a spectacular lightshow- will eclipse anything in Beijing. Get the facts right!

  • Comment number 12.

    Just got back from tonight's games. A great experience all round. Security was a breeze, organisation excellent with buses every couple of minutes to/from venue, the arena is really good and even the GB Team almost pulled off an unlikely victory. Top stuff and congrats to the London Prepares Team for a job well done.

  • Comment number 13.

    Dear David, BBC Sports Editor - there was no Basketball played on "Monday", the public came in & competition started on Tuesday. Totally agree with others' comments on the venue - the whole point of recycling it was part of the Sustainability element of the 2012 bid. A genuine first for an Olympics. How much did Bejing spend???
    Also I twice heard on the BBC this week presenters talking about Team GB basketball and medals - come on, be realistic, we play well but are currently not even in the top 40 in the world. If this is the level of accuracy and hype of your journalism with a year to go, gawd help us next year. I am worried the BBC might go too over board and start to ruin the build up. Start doing some proper research.

  • Comment number 14.

    A lot of posters have missed the point, these are "test events" london 2012 are testing all aspects and seeing what hard data they have gained to train and adapt.



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