London 2012: Box Hill capacity boosted for cycling road races
London 2012 organisers increase the spectator capacity at Box Hill - the key climb for the Olympic cycling road race - to 15,000
London 2012 organisers have increased the spectator capacity at Box Hill – the key climb for the Olympic cycling road race.
Spectator numbers for last year’s test event were severely restricted due to concerns over damage that could be caused to Box Hill’s fragile wildlife habitat, in particular to several unusual species of orchid.
Long lengths of steel fencing were used to restrict access to only 3,500 spectators, creating a muted and slightly surreal atmosphere on what could be a key flashpoint of the race, with the men completing nine loops of Box Hill and the women two.
But Olympic organisers Locog have confirmed that the final capacity for the area will now be increased to 15,000, with spectators allowed to watch from enclosures on the Zig-Zag Road and Donkey Green.
However, access will be ticketed, although organisers stress the vast majority of the route – which travels through six London boroughs, four Royal Parks and Surrey countryside, before heading back into central London for the finish on the Mall – will be free to watch.
Officials have yet to finalise exact plans for Box Hill ticket distribution, after offering them exclusively to local residents and cycling fans, via British Cycling and specialist magazines, for the test event.
“Following the test event, both myself and UCI President Pat McQuaid made our views about the unsatisfactory arrangements on Box Hill clear to Locog,” said British Cycling president Brian Cookson.
“Both before and since that time, there has been considerable input from the technical representatives of both bodies into the planning process, and I am pleased that this, together with the public and media pressure, has now resulted in a much more satisfactory situation for cycling fans than had originally been the case.”
Next week the National Trust will begin work to safely remove scrub along the Zig Zag road to allow for increased spectator capacity.
The road, which will also be resurfaced in April, will be closed for a week to allow strips of land on both sides of the road to be trimmed while occasional ‘bridges’ of overhanging trees will be left in place to allow woodland creatures to cross.
“It’s great news that so many people will be able to enjoy the races in this wonderful natural setting. The surveys conducted by LOCOG are the most thorough ever carried out on this site and will really help us manage the habitat for the long term,” said National Trust’s Andy Wright.
“The scrub alongside the road has very few species living in it so when we remove it, it doesn’t matter if people walk in those areas.
“Gradually, over the years, that land will turn into chalk grassland which is a much richer habitat – supporting around 60 to 100 species of plants, animals and insects per square metre.”