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2012's model venue?

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David Bond | 16:44 UK time, Tuesday, 22 February 2011

There is no doubt the Olympic velodrome is now viewed by many as the model venue for the new Olympic Park.

On budget and on time, it felt like every senior Olympic official had gathered in Stratford to purr about the natural light, the building's beautiful curves and its fast track.

And so they should. At a cost of £93m and with a legacy plan built in from the start, the velodrome's virtues are all the more apparent when set against the recent squabble over the Olympic Stadium and the ongoing concerns about the aquatics centre.

But is it big enough? With Team GB's Olympic cyclists set to be one of the biggest draws at the 2012 Games, the 6,000 capacity is going to leave plenty of people disappointed.

The cheapest ticket price for a medal session during the six days of track cycling is £50. Locog, the 2012 organising committee, has not yet revealed exactly how many of the 6,000 seats will be available at that price.

2012 hopeful Victoria Pendleton helped to unveil the Olympic velodrome

Nor have they said how many will be sold at the most expensive price of £325, although it is possible to work out roughly the allocations in each of the five price brackets because Locog has said that, broadly, the same amount of tickets will be released for sale in each category.

But that does not mean there will be 1,200 tickets available at the cheapest price of £50.
That is because only 75% of the tickets for any venue will go on general sale on 15 March. The remaining 25% is split as follows:

* 12% for foreign national Olympic committees
* 8% for sponsors and rights holders
* 5% divided between IOC, international sports federations and hospitality providers

So only 4,500 seats will be on general sale, which means that there will be approximately only 900 for medal sessions at £50 each.

Most people will feel that is not enough, while Locog acknowledges that the track cycling will be oversubscribed and that there will be a public ballot.

The difficult question for those desperate to see the track cycling is whether they should bid for tickets at the higher end of the scale in the hope that improves their chances.

But most people will reflect that £325 is simply too much, even for the chance to see Olympic champions Sir Chris Hoy or Victoria Pendleton go for gold on home turf.

In their defence, officials argue that the velodrome is twice the size of the sport's existing home in Manchester. They also point out that the alternative would have been to build a venue that would be rarely full once the Olympic flame has been extinguished.

Despite all this, there is no question that Tuesday's official opening of the velodrome was a big moment for the Olympic Delivery Authority and Locog.

There is still a lot of work for Lord Coe's organising team to do before the venue is ready for the Games but back in 2007, when rows were still going on about the budget and the complications of the largest building project in Europe, Olympic officials would not have dared to dream of completing one of the main venues 17 months out.

Across the Olympic Park, the main athletics stadium might be five times the cost but it is also ahead of schedule and should be finished by May.

But the aquatics centre is a very different story. I took a look inside last week and it is clear the ODA and the construction team Balfour Beatty are in a race to complete the venue in time for the handover at the end of June.

At £262m, the aquatics centre is already way over budget and a report from the National Audit Office last week expressed concern at the "tight" timetable for the handover of the Zaha Hadid-designed venue.

There are question marks over who will pay for the running costs of the aquatics centre after 2012, too. The Olympic Park Legacy Company admits it will need a significant public subsidy.

At the start of the project, the aquatics centre was always supposed to be the iconic building on the park. With criticism of the "flatpack" main stadium, officials felt one of the venues needed the wow factor. That is why Hadid was hired to deliver something special.

In legacy mode, the centre will certainly be impressive but its impact during the Games will be undermined by the two temporary stands rising steeply on both sides of the venue that will accommodate 17,000 seats.

As for the velodrome, officials felt it was pointless to have a beautiful building if it did not have the capacity to accommodate as many people as possible during the Games.

And it is ironic that many now see this venue - and not the aquatics centre - as the jewel in the Olympic Park.


  • Comment number 1.

    Having been in Manchester at the weekend for the cycling world cup I will be putting my name into the ticket system to try and get into at what appears to be an amazing venue. Even the qualifying rounds will be quite something to watch, and it should have a great atmosphere. Best thing is the press can have no complaints on this one not over budget and in well on time great for cycling.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's been interesting to note most of the 'white elephant' artillery has been aimed at the Olympic stadium in recent weeks and months, but in truth, it's the aquatic centre which stands the chance of being a real issue. Swimming pools don't make money (particularly 50m ones) and the aquatic centre will have two. And a diving pit.

    The expense of running it is going to be astronomical. I will be interested to see if the choice of operator (currently out to tender) is given the same level of public/press scrutiny as the stadium has. The initial plan is for it to be run along with the multi-use arena - which I guess is the only way the whole thing might stand a chance of breaking even, but as a single venue, I cannot see how it can work without being massively underwritten.

    Re: the velodrome - Manchester is a fantastic example of how to do it. I understand that British Cycling is staying there, but presumably this will be a London-base for all those athletes (current and future) in the south east who currently have to travel significant distances for training/competition etc.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think they have done exactly the right thing keeping the velodrome at 6000 seats. It's high time the Olympics lived within its means and understood that building huge stadia at enormous public expense, just to show the rest of the world how much money a country can spend is pointless.

    I'd far rather people who can't get tickets went disappointed if it means we end up without having to continue to subsidize a stadium that will never be full to capacity again. By not wasting money on that, we can continue to invest in the athlete, which is ultimately what the Olympics should be about.

    What I would like to see however would be the organizers figure out a way to reward people who have shown an interest in and have supported cycling before. I'm not sure if it would be possible, but it would be great if tickets could first be offered to people who have spectated at events in Manchester.

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry, £325 is far too much, but there are plenty of mugs out there willing to pay that, or are there? Probably, way to go Mr Coe.

  • Comment number 5.

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

  • Comment number 6.

    They removed the best even from the track cycling.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have to agree with #3.
    It is better to ahve people dissapointed by not having tickets, but to have a beautiful building with a proper legacy, that the nonesens that the aquatics center is turning out to be.

  • Comment number 8.

    Although there are 6000 seats in the Velodrome, during the Oympics only 4000 will be available for spectators - the remaining 2000 will be for the press. The chances of getting a ticket will be very slim.

  • Comment number 9.

    why waste the time and money triying to stop west ham when barry hearn and leyton orient could move into the veledrome and stop with it's pointlesss and baseless legal chalenges


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