With the consultation out on the Olympic Route Network (ORN), you can imagine how Londoners will be responding, particularly those in Central London’s many urban villages, to the idea that whole lanes of precious road space will be sectioned off for the exclusive use of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its sponsors to get across town from their hotels in the west to Olympic venues in the east.
Crucially, this consultation does not explain why IOC officials and sponsors should be based in hotels along Park Lane in the first place. l grant you we have many lovely hotels in that part of town but if the purpose of your visit is specifically for the games, then surely you should be based near the games venues, not hanging around a posh hotel. This is a time of unprecedented expansion of hotels in London. For example the Westfield development at Stratford is scheduled to open in September 2011 with two new hotels. One will be a Premier Inn with 267 rooms and the other a 350 bed hotel for a yet to be announced hotelier. Surely these should be a good enough base during the Olympics for many IOC officials. They could even do their shopping in the Westfield development.
Or if you must be based in central London why not stay near Kings Cross where the Javelin train service will get you from St Pancras to Stratford in less then 20 minutes. In recent years a whole host of hotels have sprung up on the Euston Road, servicing all sections of the market from youth hostels to top range hotels. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that IOC officials and their sponsors stay near good transport links to the main Olympic site rather than where they will cause most inconvenience to Londoners. The only north south movement suggested in the ORN for central London is along Southampton Row, principally for media people based in the square. Quite why they should be based there and not nearer to St Pancras is another mystery.
As for the IOC lanes from the airport on the M4 and A40, why not just use London City Airport for the extra flights, especially for the dignitaries? It is a compact airport and with its proximity to Stratford it would save a lot of criss-crossing across London.
There are also problems with the venues in central London, particularly two l know well, Lords and Earls Court Exhibition Centre, which will be used for volleyball and archery. Volleyball will probably be the most popular of these, with tens of thousands likely to be going to the fixtures. Unfortunately for the residents of Earls Court it will be awash with ORN lanes in what is always a very busy part of town. Those IOC officials and sponsors who are involved specifically with volleyball should be based within walking distance of the volleyball venue in the numerous hotels around Kensington, Chelsea and Earls Court. A similar policy should be adopted for those officials involved in the archery at Lords, as we have plenty of hotels and other accommodation used to coping with the many visitors who come for test matches. It seems illogical to do anything else, and all goes to reinforce my view that we need the IOC to produce their hotel accommodation strategy showing where people will be staying, and why, before we offer these lanes which are in all probability going to be lying empty for most of the time as they did in Beijing, causing even more irritation to Londoners.
Finally l would suggest if you are an IOC official or sponsor running late you’d be better off in a black cab on a bus lane than in an IOC lane. Local knowledge will serve you better than zil lanes any day.
This blog was published in the West End Extra on 27th of August 2010.