A huge spectator increase for one of the best vantage points of the 2012 Olympic road race has been given the green light.
A maximum of 15,000 people will now be able to watch the race on the Zig Zag Road incline and Donkey Green area of Box Hill, up from the previous limit of 3,500. The lessons learned from last August’s Olympic test event, combined with five months of investigations by the Olympic organising committee LOCOG, land owners National Trust and wildlife advisors Natural England, have brought about the change.
A final capacity will be confirmed once a health and safety report has been carried out. It will be achieved by stripping away the scrub on the sides of the Zig Zag Road, which will be closed from 30 January for a week while the work is carried out. The National Trust will also resurface the stretch in April.
The decision to limit the numbers on particular sections of the hill, allied to the fact spectators would have to pay to get access to them, caused considerable consternation in the cycling community last year. Though the capacity has dramatically increased, those wanting to watch the race from these two areas will still have to buy tickets, explained by LOCOG as being “in line with London 2012 aims to provide fair access and safety at venues”. Other parts of Box Hill will be free to view, as will the rest of the route.
British Cycling’s President Brian Cookson said: “Following the test event, both myself and UCI President Pat McQuaid made our views about the unsatisfactory arrangements on Box Hill clear to LOCOG. Both before and since that time, there has been considerable input from the technical representatives of both bodies into the planning process, and I am pleased that this, together with the public and media pressure, has now resulted in a much more satisfactory situation for cycling fans than had originally been the case.”