40,000 Londoners get cold at the Olympic Stadium

The “London Prepares” events climaxed last night at the opening of the Olympic Stadium in Siberian Stratford last night. We came, we saw and we left early – underwhelmed by the experience.

Which is a little  unfair on an event that went as smoothly as could have been hoped.

But is it enough to drag 40,000 people out on a cold Saturday night to test whether they can be herded around a renovated bombsite without incident?

This from the BBC report on the event

Simon Levy, who came to the Olympic Park for the first time on Saturday, said: “It’s not a problem, really. It’s much quicker than the airport and it’s good to be checked because now we know we’re safe.”

Police helicopters flew over the park and armed police patrolled the area.

Adrian Casy, a security guard at the Olympic Stadium, said Saturday’s events were among the main rehearsals for the games, particularly in moving and managing the crowds of spectators from the park and from one venue to another.

“Honestly, so far, so good, although we’re still trying hard to make it run smoother,” said Mr Casy, adding that some spectators were wearing “insufficient clothing” to cope with the weather conditions.

It’s interesting that we now regard the airport experience as a necessary price to pay to feel safe. Perhaps this is Bin Laden’s legacy. I’m less worried by Simon Levy’s supine acquiescence as by Mr Casy’s attitude to his customers – will he get the security guards turning away revellers inadequately dressed.

I got the feeling last night that for the likes of Mr Casy, this event would run even smoother if we could do away with spectators altogether. Clearly the organiser’s KPIs are more to do with risk management than in letting people have a good time. For all the measurables, it’s an immeasurable- how much we enjoy the games, that is how we will judge the games.

The jury is out on whether what we experienced on Saturday 5th May is an indicator of trouble to come or a step along the road to a happy and relaxed games. I suspect that most of us while feeling disappointed, will continue to look forward to July but more in the Olympian spirit of optimism than the logic of what we saw.

Here are the lessons I learned

  1. Don’t drive in East London when anything is happening in the Olympic Park. Our car was stopped, searched and misdirected. We ended up crawling for an hour to the Westfield Car Park in needles queues.
  2. Don’t park in Westfield, you may be adjacent to the entry to the Park but you will be directed by big foam fingers round a block or seven.
  3. There is no good argument for going to Stratford on an Olymic day by car.
  4. Expect to be searched and leave half an hour to get into the Park the search is efficient and friendly.
  5. Don’t rely on Olympic catering- at £5.20 for half a glass of wine, £2.80 for instant coffee and £3 for a coke it isn’t cheap and none of the concessions can sell you all three at the same time. Buying a round is a 40 minute process.
  6. Don’t expect to see much sport if you are seated on Westfield side of the stadium, your view of the finishing line is non-existent unless you are at the top and the TV screens are inadequate.
  7. Be prepared for corporatism at every term. Visa were last night sponsors but at every turn a “sponsorship opportunity” unveils itself in its full phoniness.

Although I was happy to “play my part” the event last night was distinctly sub standard. The BUCS events weren’t up to much, several of the Olympic hopefuls down to race “did not run” and if the performance of the “military wives” singing the national anthem was a taste of things to come, entertainment could be catastrophic. We stayed for two or more events which were frankly dreadful watching a big screen of a man on an exercise bike for goodness sake. Film clips of Jonathan Edwards in shirtsleeves, audience shivering in Siberia.

The current emphasis on security is so overwhelming the occasion that any sense of Olympic Spirit is at best muted.

The Stadium is alright but it’s no masterpiece and Stratford isn’t a great place to be late at night with kids.

I hope this event is part of the Olympic Comittees’ program of improvement, because the Olympic experience had better be a lot better than this.

Final verdict – even at £20 per head, this was not a value for money experience and no-one in my party were enthusiastic about going back.

Roll on some proper competition to put the bureaucrats and security guards to the background.

Thanks to all the volunteers, the true stars of the show.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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7 Responses to 40,000 Londoners get cold at the Olympic Stadium

  1. M Dickinson says:

    Herry Tapper you have got it spot on. The catering has got to be able to repond to the conditions the queue for the coffee was a 100 meters and it took more than 10 seconds! More like 10 hours. We took a flask of tea and we could have sold it to pay for the night! My tip to anybody going to the main events is go prepared!

    • henry tapper says:

      I think a top tip for the organisers is to make it clear to people what they can and cannot take into the complex. If you can take picnics- then take them;- but let’s hope don’t take picnics and find them confiscated by security.

      I hope that security don’t end up as the people who make sure the concessions maximise their profits at the expense of people who bring their own food and drinks.

      Did you have any trouble with your flask of tea? You can’t take them onto airplanes these days but I wished I’d been sitting next to you last night!!!

  2. Beryl Katz says:

    I was there.I live within spitting distance of the stadium but no proper walking routes signposted.People waving giant pink foam hands sometimes incorrectly to be avoided,some looked a bit unbalanced.All very shambolic.Athletics uninspiring.Military wives abyssmal.”It’s a Knockout” type show, well I’ve seen better at infant school and village summer fetes.I’m glad now that I haven’t got tickets for the real thing.We did actually pay for the water polo earlier in the day but it was spoiled by silly paper clappers used indiscriminately and very bad acoustics on public address which could only be heard properly in the disabled lavatories.Although the commentary wasn’t necessary.Be prepared for uncomfortable flimsy plastic seats which don’t look as though they’ll last the summer.Everything looks as though it’s been done on the cheap.basic and maybe functional.The best thing was the excitement and enthusiasm of local kids particularly for the losers in the athletics.Shame because even the free tickets available to local school children are very few and far between

    • henry tapper says:

      Talking this afternoon with a contractor, he asked me if there was any enjoyment to be had last night. To be frank I was more concerned about security than thinking of enjoyment.

      I really hope that someone lightens up but fear this is going to be the games of fear not fun.

  3. Richard says:

    Henry
    We too braved the arctic wastes of East London and followed the pointy fingers on our march from West Ham tube to join the queues of the tired and hungry at the overpriced soup kitchen.
    Logistically LOCOG will need to open up a lot more kiosks and will need to stock a lot more food…..we joined a 50 metre queue for baked potatoes until the message ran back down the queue that they had run out, and so in turn joined a new line for a beef baguette,coleslaw and salad…Eventually we paid our £8 and received the beef in a roll….No baguette, no salad, no coleslaw….!!!…not great is it?…

    We enjoyed the athletics, but the sound quality let down the Military wives and the marching band…Its a knockout was not a knockout, and eventually , when the little girl and Lord Coe pressed the button (to release the balloons to open the stadium) ….not a lot happened…in fact it was a bit of a damp squib…..
    No fireworks, a rather lame light show and eventually the released balloons simply swirled round and around in the cold wild wind ..When eventually the balloons did manage to leave the stadium so did we…..
    It was a long walk back in the rain…..
    I really hpe the Olympic organisers learned from the experience…
    I really wanted to share my disappointment and contribute ny views, but there was no feedback form in the overpriced programme, and no-one with a clipboard stopped us to ask for our views..
    I’m sure it will all be alright on the night….At least it won’t be so cold in August…!!!!

  4. henry tapper says:

    Richard- your sentiments are just like ours- we hope that cometh the real games- the emphasis will be on having a good time though on Saturday, it seemed rather different.

    From the reports I’ve heard from those close to the project, the security paranoia is the main issue preventing fun breaking out but at least we have genuinely cheerful volunteers who outnumbered the security guards, policemen and harassed food dispensers.

    Your points about feedback are excellent- maybe I’ll send this to Seb Coe!

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