Olympic Velodrome Test Event

I was at the Velodrome in the Olympic Park yesterday, for the opening evening of the UCI Track World Cup London stage, which was also a London Prepares test event for the forthcoming Olympics. As such, it was the first opportunity to get into the Velodrome to watch an competitive event. The only races taking part were the Team Pursuit qualifications, but it was still exciting to see 33 teams go around the track (one at a time) at impressive speeds.

Tickets were not easy to get – I got through as a local resident, and even then had to apply on the dot as registrations opened, and the ticket site slowed down. So it was a little galling to see some seats (5-10%) remain empty all evening. As many of these were “prime” seats adjacent to the finish, I wonder if these were free seats give to sponsors, who then decided that the preliminary arounds weren’t that exciting to watch.

The logistics were also a little awkward – requiring a longish bus ride from right the other end of the park. With nearly 6,000 spectators to bus, there were inevitably long queues both to get to the velodrome, and (longer) coming back. Obviously for the Olympics itself, people will be walking around the park, rather than being bussed around it.

There were some technical issues on the night – the start gate failed to release one of the riders, at one point, and the overall time system got confused for a couple of teams and arbitrarily added over a minute to the affected team’s time, as they crossed the finish line. This was particularly odd as the erroneous time had not yet elapsed, so where this extra time came from I do not know. Of course, the whole point of test events like this is to test the equipment, in a competition environment, so that come August, the bugs will have been ironed out. One non-technical “incident” was that the Spanish men – who incidentally had the most striking tops of the night – managed to get themselves disqualified, for altering a bike into an illegal configuration after it had been measured. Oops!

But enough of the negatives, it is a super venue. We entered through the door where the roof shrinks right down so it is barely 10 foot above you – and then suddenly you are in a huge, brightly lit arena, with terraces of seats disappearing into the “Pringle” shape and masses of cyclists and bikes in the race team area within the track. Certainly the entrance had more of an impact than the previous test event I went to at the Copper Box (aka the Handball Arena). The seats are more comfortable too.

The best aspect of the night though was the two times that Team GB took to the track (the Women, and later the Men). Deafening clapping and cheering from start to finish of their cycle. If they can sort the other problems, the Olympic experience here is going to be amazing.

London Prints

3 Comments

  1. C E H
    20 February 2012
    Reply

    We went on the second day to the 12 till 4pm session it was a nightmare journey from Berkshire. We had planned to park in the Multi-storey at Stratford and the Sat Nav was confident that it knew where to go!!The sat nav had a complete emotional breakdown not to mention the driver and passenger!!When we did an override and narrowed it down to Great Eastern Road it found the car park.I should say at this point that I cannot walk very far, I refuse to use a walking stick and am not registered disabled, ok just a bit independant!
    Ok now we think that all is well …NO.. we go to the main information desk to ask where we go for the bus to the entrance to the Olympic Park. Where? sorry but you should be at Puddle Mill Lane not Stratford! So we get a Taxi he is very confident that if you are going to the Olympic Park you go to the Puddle Mill entrance, after all that is where he has been told to take all idiots who want to go to the Pre Olympics, After another long walk we find that we have to take the DLR BACK to Stratford where we started. We use our Oyster card and get back to Stratford…. another long walk back to the long flight of stairs to the Westfield Centre where we started!! There is one woman with a red foam glove saying Olympic Park, who did not know about the assisted bus service to the check in area, so we had about half a mile walk to the check in that was like and Airport check in, no complaint there, but we then had another long walk to the buses for the Velodrome down a long flight of steps as the lifts were not working, when we got on the bus I was lucky to get a seat! When we arrived they did not drop us at the nearest point to the venue, so I had more walking. We avoided the television lady who was asking ” How excited are you about attending the Velodrome in the new Olympic Park?” I was ready to shave off at that point as I was so tired!

    Presenting our tickets were told that we had to go to entrance B which was on the opposite side to our drop off point and as most of the entrances were shut we couldn’t get in till we had walked around to the other side, even though it indicated an entrance was’ B’ the door was shut, and the security person waved us away. By the time that we got into the Velodrome I was so tired that I wished that I had never attempted the trip!

    The venue was terrific and the swell of cheering from the Brits was heart warming and we learnt a lot from our fellow ticket holders who really knew what the cycling was all about, and gave a running commentry to their friends about what was going on and why, and especially about’ Swifty’ and his tactics.We were surprised that so few had their Union Jack Flags, we and one other section only, had a flag.
    When we went to the O2 Gymnastics Pre Olympic event, there were flags all over the stadium.

    Our trip back to Stratford was no better as we had to stand all the way on the bus, the lifts were still not working, 3 flights of stairs nearly killed me nowhere to sit down to rest.We found seats in the Westfield Centre at last but still a long walk back to the Multi Storey, no more seats.
    I plan to Park at Westfield B in the hope that the walk is shorter, as we are visiting the Aquatics Centre next week for the Diving, ‘God Help Me’
    How are they going to cope with the Paralympics, I am not that disabled but this experience was too much for me!
    Can someone tell the People of Stratford what is happening in their town and where, so that they can help visitors, especially the Information Desks!!!!!!!

    • Oliver O`Brien
      20 February 2012
      Reply

      I think I can see the confusion re Pudding Mill Lane vs Stratford – the entrance for the bus tours around the park, which have been going on for the last couple of years, is Pudding Mill Lane. But the entrance for the test events is from the Westfield shopping complex, which is on the Stratford side of the park, although a good walk from it.

      I would not rely on the volunteers and local folk knowing what’s going on – the park is constantly changing as it is. I received an email a couple of weeks before the test events which contained a map showing the entrance to use for the test events, so used that to guide me to the correct entrance.

      The bus transfer process was also, I agree, very convoluted, a necessary evil for now as so much of the park is still a building site (although it’s only the greening of the park that is remaining now).

      The purpose of the test events is partly to test out the stadiums, but also to test out operations in general, and volunteer process, for the park itself. Having had a less than perfect experience yourself, be assured that this is all part of the learning for them, and will actually have helped with making things go smoothly come August.

    • Oliver O`Brien
      20 February 2012
      Reply

      & I would add, never rely on satnav!

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