On friday, we went to the Time Trials of the BMX test competition for London 2012 - the races would be on saturday. Ominously, we had transport issues, we caught the Jubilee line from Waterloo toward Strafford, but discovered that the train terminated for no reason we could fathom at West Ham. Therefore, we got off at Canary Wharf for the DLR. Noting that Heron Quays was slightly closer to the underground than Canary Wharf DLR, we went there for our connection. This was only to discover that we would have to get a connection to Canary Wharf and change - a right royal pain - I do hope that next year any train on the central/jubilee etc will continue to Strafford (and that if there are shorter 'shuttles' e.g. Canary Wharf to Strafford DLR, that these are indicated by stickers on the tube maps) On arrival at Strafford, we had a short walk through an area which won't be too impressive to foreign visitors. It wasn't a long walk, but nonetheless I can only hope that in a years time there are more direct routes to the Olympic site rather than filing people around a narrow pavement and across taxi ranks.
We got to the Olympic site in time to watch the practice sessions, but the wait was about 20-30 minutes to get through security - and this was for only BMX and basketball. They'll need to speed up this process considerably when multiple events are running simultaneously. The security screening had an element of 'security theatre' with unopened bottles of drink being allowed in, but once a sip had been taken, the drink had to be discarded. Whilst waiting, we were badgered to stay on one side of the pavement - fair enough, but if you're going to do that, prepare a cordon. One thing that I didn't like to see was a small group of girls using the 'our friends have saved our place' in the queue ahead, and getting let in. Yes, this may have been the case, but they really should have gone to the back.
Once through security, everything became a lot less annoying. We took the bus through the Olympic site (which for the most part is a construction site) and we were dropped off outside the basketball arena (which is a temporary structure, amazingly).
We walked around the arena and caught site of the Velodrome, next to which was the BMX track (which, I'm told, will be removed after the games - what a pity).
The BMX track has an 8m initial hill. The Men and women divide into two routes, both have some initial jumps and then the women go into a bend (a 'berm') - the men leap this. The women's course dives down into a tunnel, which can't easily be appreciated from the stands (though I hope they've thought carefully about the risk of people launching themselves into the tunnel roof). The men's course has a couple of jumps and then goes over the women's course, before a box jump.
Both courses then have a 'rhythm' section, before joining for the final turn and a final straight.
It was hard to appreciate the far side of the course from the stands, or the tunnel - but we did get good views of cyclist flying through the air, both in the practice sessions, and in the time trial stage.
The event itself would have been improved by having some more clarity about how the time trials informed the races the next day. There were minor annoyances about the commentator enthusing about someone 'getting the green helmet' (i.e. being in the top 16) when fewer than 16 riders had been out on the course. That said, apart from the logistical problems of accessing the event we had a great day,. The event itself is great to watch - it's spectacular stuff.
One small note - whilst there was amusement value in playing 'Mash' over the PA when the ambulance people are doing their thing - it is potentially in bad taste should the injury prove to be very serious - this would need careful thought. This sort of thing happens at rugby matches, and they pick their moments carefully as a rule (i.e. minor injuries, not major ones).
We loved how each rider chose their own music to race to - there was some predictable "hip hop pumpin' action" - but there were also some great tunes in there - I'd love to see the playlist! It must be so tempting to pick the comedy song, i.e. 'Nellie the Elephant' or 'Ernie: The fastest milkman in the west'
Shame we couldn't get BMX or velodrome tickets for the real thing next year.