Friday, 15 October 2010

London 2012: Eventing - The Greenwich Venue

Greenwich Park | London 2012 3-Day-Event Site
We're less than 2 years away from The London Olympics and ever since the announcement of the venue for equestrian disciplines would be Greenwich Park, the organisers have come under intense criticism, and gone all out on a charm offensive in their attempt to woo the general public, press, eventing fraternity, and local residents.

The Greenwich site has become controversial for a number of reasons primarily because it is a world heritage site, and a local residents committee has long been campaigning for the equestrian events to be moved elsewhere, gathering over 12,000 signatures by all accounts. You can see the logic behind holding the event here, in as much as it is undulating parkland (albeit more formal parkland), and it is close to the rest of the olympics so the desire of 'keeping all the athletes together in an athlete's village' can be met.

Whilst I have no doubt that it is possible to build an excellent cross country course in this park, and therefore run an excellent competition, I have a few reservations about staging the 3 day event here, all centred around one goal - "Making this Event As Good As It Gets":

WHS Restrictions:
Whilst the park provides great undulations in terrain, and great vistas, because of the world heritage status, the vast majority of fences on the course will be portable, so you'll see very little use of the terrain except for galloping, and from what I understand the only pond in the park will not be used, although I'm not whether the boating lake will or can be used. An abundance of portable fences does not make for a particularly exciting or challenging cross country course, otherwise we'd see this practice used more often in our other 4 star events (which we don't).

Location, Location, Location:
When it comes to transport and access requirements, previous Olympics should not be the bench mark for predicting requirements. Britain hosts, by far, the two largest 3 day events in terms of spectators, Badminton and Burghley, attracting well over 100,000 visitors on Cross Country Day. These are stalwart crowds that will undoubtedly wish to make it to the Olympic event. The problem is parking anywhere near Greenwich is a non-starter, and most of the audience will be travelling in to London. It's location in South East London, doesn't have the greatest transport links either. It's either the Docklands Light Railway, a few buses or foot. There are a few other 'overland stations, but all of this is located in the north end of the park (crowd movement issues). They could of course use blackheath and shooters hill as carparks, but the venue is never going to sustain that many spectators anyway.

Size Matters:
The entire park is less than 1 square kilometre (about 180 acres), that's less than a quarter of the size of the Badminton site, and there is quite a lot to fit in to this site, apart from the cross country course and the spectators. The problem here, I think, is that the course will wind and loop quite a bit a round this park in order to deliver a good 10/11 minute track, requiring numerous crossing points and very little opportunity to see much of what it going on, due to the compact nature of the site. I estimate the maximum crowd capacity here at Greenwich is 25,000 before it becomes a safety issue.

There is absolutely no legacy here. It won't be used as a 3 day event again, and the legacy being muted so far (a fence turned into a children's play area) is just so weak.

I'm not suggesting that using the Greenwich venue means the event is doomed to failure, but I don't think it's the perfect venue, from the point of view of spectators, and putting on 'the best show we possibly can'.  Satisfying this need to keep more athletes together in the athletes' village is done at the sacrifice of much better venues, which will bring me neatly on to my next few posts, as I put forward suggestions for other venues to hold the 3 day event (allbeit futile).

In the meantime here's Tim Hadaway, once more attempting to persuade us that Greenwich is the perfect venue. Tim has an enviable job, heading up the Equestrian section of the Olympics, and has unfortunately born the brunt of all criticisms, as much as I like and respect him, I still feel this site is a bit of a compromise, and won't be in a position to host as many spectators as it could easily attract.

1 comment:

  1. Love all the inside information, and I agree with you. Seems silly there are so many eventing venues in England, would not have been the worst thing if they were a few hours out of the city.