We've been to several Olympic test events over the past few weeks, I thought it'd be helpful if a member of LOCOG stumbles on this to summarise the overall impressions of the events, which is, after all, the purpose of the test events (this is only for events in the first 'tranche' of test events) I am most interested in the Cycling events (despite not being able to get tickets for any of them at the Olympics next year), and as a result I am, perhaps paradoxically, far more critical of them.
- Mountain Biking.
<Positives>: Superb course with great access, well organised.
<Negatives>: Lack of opportunities for shade, 'You are here' stickers lacking on maps, Big screens lacking (but must be done in a sympathetic way - that said, the course access compensates for this lack
- Marathon Swim.
<Positives>: Very accessible, with a great location.
<Negatives>: Not very spectator friendly, this needs to have big screens around the Serpentine, not just in the finish area.
- Beach Volleyball.
<Positives>: Great location, easily accessible. Aesthetically pleasing.
<Negatives>: The security theatre felt rather invasive, the branding was far too intrusive to the point that it was counterproductive for the sponsor. Some screens outside the venue would be a good idea, I think - Trafalgar Square, St. James' Park? Indeed, why not have screens showing the Olympics dotted around London (and the rest of the UK) - it's not as if they'd be doing themselves out of ticket sales.
- Men's Road Cycling.
<Positives>: Box Hill is a beautiful location, and it'll be where the race is lost by some riders.
<Negatives>: There were some wheelchair users on site who got there with adapted chairs, but there seemed no provision for access by the infirm - perhaps a ticketed minibus service to the top, with a viewing area at the cafe? The commentator did not know her cycling. Access was too too long winded with a roundabout route indicated where we could have walked up the tarmac. This was something that was particularly notable for us as the guy stood next to us was allowed to walk up the road. Was it a case of different marshalls using different rules, or of rules 'developing' over time? Cycling up the route was prohibited too far in advance of the race arriving. At a cycling event, especially a road race, spectators will arrive on bicycles, a glance at the Tour de France or similar will tell you that. (Next year, I will be cycling to the route and finding a spot to watch the race before cycling home). Spectators at the front standing forced everyone else to stand, and on such a steep slope, this is something to avoid. The commentator only asked them to sit 30 seconds prior to the pelaton arriving. They did sit on the second lap, and this made everything a lot more visible. On a grand tour, such an interjection would be unnecessary as people could move along the route, however, with such a restricted area, asking people at the front to sit was important. Why no test event for the Women? I'd have loved to see Nicole Cooke ride.
<Positives>: The event itself is spectacular, even if the whole course is not easily viewable, the riders themselves are (as they are regularly airborne). The event has a lot of action to commend it to the casual spectator (maybe that's why we couldn't get tickets for 2012....)
<Negatives>: There is limited shelter available from the sun (or the rain). The tunnel is not 'live spectator' friendly, and the screen is over on the far right, and demands taking eyes away from the course to look at it. The security theatre to get on to the site took forever, and had odd rules about taking in drinks (i.e. if you've sipped, you can't take it in). There is nowhere really in front of the stands for competitors to engage with fans, e.g. between races (apart from the track itself). The commentator did not seem to appreciate that it was hard for a spectator to switch from screen to 'live' - and kept invited people to 'watch for the green helmet' - you do that, and you miss the event - he also talked of the velodrome being 'the backdrop', it may have been for him, but it wasn't for the punters, it was on the left! Slightly annoying, perhaps - but on the upside, he did seem to know what he was talking about. At security, I saw people arriving on bicycle, and there were no facilities - this is a massive oversight for a cycling event. I know that people were asked to use public transport, but still, one of the aims of the Olympics is to encourage participation - and they really must encourage cyclists onto the site, especially for cycling events. (To be fair, the park is a building site so they would not be allowed to cycle in, but nonetheless, there was enough space for some bikes at security screening).
We were asked for feedback on the day after the road cycling. We were subsequently emailed for feedback about the Mountain biking and BMX. We have not been asked (yet) for any feedback on the Volleyball or Marathon Swim (as someone who watched the marathon swim 'casually', it would be amazing to be asked now - and rather concerning!)