We can be heroes
So, that was that then. London’s great big shindig (well, the first half anyway) has finished and the city has survived. In fact, something that gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure is that I can thumb my nose at all the naysayers who proclaimed that the transport network would suffer total collapse, because everything turned out fine. There were one or two teething problems to begin with, perhaps most notably a couple of signal failures on the Central Line, which was perhaps a bit unfortunate given that it serves Stratford and the Olympic Park, while there was a day when some of the central London termini were a bit congested but, overall, everything worked fine. Being a commuter I was right in the middle and noticed no problems. Indeed, the Jubilee Line didn’t look any different in the morning to most other mornings, at least until the start of the track and field programme started, which saw the capacity of the venues in the park itself more than double (the total capacity of all the venues other than the Olympic Stadium is roughly 62,000, while the stadium’s capacity is around 80,000). Even then though, there was none of the surly and irritated behaviour that usually accompanies travelling on the Jubilee Line in the morning.
Of course, even I had my own Olympic experiences – I got to go to events at three separate venues, and was thus able to experience a relatively broad spectrum of the transport network. I got to the ExCel, where I saw some of the weightlifting. This was on the first Sunday of the Games, and before a large number of some of the more popular events started, which meant that my route to the arena, which saw me go on the Jubilee Line followed by the DLR. Cleverly the DLR was working a one-way system to get to the ExCel, given the number of different individual venues inside the building – Custom House station was used to enter the venue, while Prince Regent took people away. On the last weekend of the Games, I then got to Earls Court, where the volleyball was being held, and then into the Olympic Park itself where I saw a handball game at the Basketball Arena. For both of these I based myself in Stevenage, which meant a journey into Kings Cross and then moving onto something else, which meant the Piccadilly Line to Earls Court, and the Olympic Javelin to Stratford. Again there were virtually no problems – getting to the venues was ok, getting away from the venues was ok.
Seemingly I’m not the only person to have embraced the value of the transport network, given the number of athletes and officials that eschewed the official cars and Olympic lanes in favour of taking the train, tube or bus. I can personally attest to this, as on separate occasions I shared a District Line car with the one of the Swiss beach volleyball pairs and one of the vice-presidents of the Amateur International Boxing Association. Then there have been the fairly well publicised stories, such as that of Ruben Limardo, who won the Men’s Epee, and then jumped on the tube wearing his tracksuit and medal to head into London to celebrate. Or the US men’s basketball team taking the train back to St Pancras after their evening games. So much did the competitors and officials embrace the transport system that the organisers found themselves with too many drivers to know what to do with. With the Olympics now over, we can take stock and offer a judgement on how well the transport system stood up. I think the fact that so many people, both taking part and watching, were able to successfully use public transport, means that this element, alongside the widely praised Games Makers, should be celebrated and applauded widely.