Olympics in 2012?
by Tom Hicks
Winning the right to host the Olympics in 2012 was without doubt one of London’s biggest achievements in recent times. If the spectacles created by the Olympic Games in Greece and China (2004 and 2008 respectively) can be matched by London then there is no doubt that we are in for a treat. However, hosting the Olympics is a huge strain on the infrastructure of the host city and Sebastian Coe the Chair of the London Olympic Committee claims the transport plans they had for London was a key factor in them securing the 2012 Olympic Games. In short, they plan to spend £17 billion pounds in the five years leading up to the Olympics on improving the City’s public transport to accommodate the 55,000 Athletes, Officials, Media, and other VIPs, 140,000 staff and volunteers as well as 500,000 spectators per day, whilst trying to ensure minimal disruption to London’s regular commuters and the local community.
Sceptics say that the disruption to transport for the regular London commuters and the residents is a massive drawback to the games. The estimated increase in travellers is likely to lead to overcrowding of the various transports which will in turn lead to an increase in delays. Transport delays and overcrowding in London are already a problem when there are big sporting events happening, such as England International football matches at Wembley. On such occasions there is normally around 80,000 spectators making their way to the stadium around the same time. So when you envisage that an extra 500,000 spectators will be using the transportation system in London over the time that the Olympics are taking place, it is no surprise many residents and commuters are dreading the transport implications of the Games.
A lot of effort is being made however to ensure that the short-term inconveniences of hosting the Olympics are minimised for commuters. For example there are definitive plans to create an Olympic Route Network (ORN) which will consist of existing roads within London and the UK that will link all the competition venues and essential non-competition venues such as athlete accommodation, which should ease traffic congestion. No new roads will need to be built for this although there will be new traffic signals, CCTV and junction upgrades along the route that will benefit Londoners once the Olympics have finished.
Furthermore, following the scrutiny attached to the 2012 London Olympics, plans to create a new underground rail system called ‘Crossrail’ are now being developed and its build is already underway. This will lead to a more efficient underground system for the duration of the Olympic Games and long after the Olympics have passed.
Overall, there are many benefits to London for hosting the Olympic Games in 2012. One of the major benefits is the anticipated increase in tourism and the resulting boost to the UK’s economy. Furthermore, the Games will create unifying and a “feel-good factor” effect for the UK as the buzz surrounding the Games will create a sense of unity and pride.
From a transport perspective, the regeneration and improvements to the London Underground System in addition to further infrastructure changes means that the long-term benefits for commuters and London residents will massively outweigh the short-term disadvantages. Therefore taking all the above points into consideration the conclusion that we can draw is that the Olympics will be a positive thing for London and if all goes to plan, disruption to residents and other commuters will be minimised.
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