It was announced a few days ago that the cycling road races on the first two days of the Olympics, 28th July for the 145 men and 29th July for the 67 women, will go through Richmond Park from Roehampton Gate to Richmond Gate, and then through Bushy Park from Teddington Gate to Lion Gate at Hampton Court, then on to Box Hill and return to London via Richmond Park again, entering at Kingston Gate and exiting at Roehampton Gate.
The Road Race is approximately 250km (156 miles) for the men’s race and 140 km (87 miles) for the women’s race. The competitors all start together and the first past the line is the winner.
The Royal Parks and The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) will meet with the Chairmen of the Friends of Bushy and Richmond Parks in the near future in order to discuss plans in more detail. Following this a programme of engagement with the local community will be agreed to ensure that residents, local businesses and civic and amenity groups like the Friends are informed about the event.
It will be a free to view event, so the parks will remain open to the public and spectators will not need to purchase tickets to view the event in the parks. The event will only last as long as it takes the athletes to cycle through the park – a couple of minutes or so on the way out, probably much longer on the way back through Richmond Park since the peloton will be strung out by then.
In principle the Friends’ groups welcome the parks joining the other Royal Parks in participating in the Olympics. It will be good for the area and the community. We do, however, have some reservations, and reserve judgement on the plan until certain issues have been fully addressed.
First, care needs to be taken with the deer. The organisers have been told about the deer herds, and they will be factored into the detailed event planning. Our deer could become world television stars! The plans need to be designed to minimise risk to riders and to deer. The routes for the road race will undergo a detailed survey, in consultation with the international cycling federation.
Second, we understand that no venue structures will be installed in either Bushy or Richmond Park, although it is likely that the routes through the parks will be fully barricaded and heavily marshalled and will feature designated and controlled pedestrian crossings. We need to be sure that there will be no spectator stands, TV screens etc on the day.
Third, for both parks, but for Richmond Park in particular, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve, we need to be convinced of the arrangements for protecting the acid grassland, ancient trees and wildlife from the large cyclist and media support and the very large crowds of spectators. Chestnut Sunday in Bushy Park can attract 10,000 people on a good year, so the number of visitors for the Olympic cycling could be treble or even quadruple that.
Finally, due to an agreement made in 2004, the Royal Parks will not be paid for the use of the land, but will be compensated for any extra expense caused by the races. The Royal Parks quite rightly make a charge for professional photography and filming in the parks. The Olympics should be no different and should be charged for holding the event, as is any other group or sports organiser.
This is particularly the case when government funding for the Royal Parks is being cut by almost 40%. We think that there should be some payment or legacy for the two parks from an Olympics organisation that is generating large amounts of money through its events such as the cycling.
There will be a test event of the route in August 2011.