The London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has today confirmed that one of the best vantage points on the Olympic Road Race route will have a spectator capacity of up to 15,000.
Five months of detailed work, following the London Surrey Cycle Classic test event in August, have enabled the spectator capacity on the Zig-Zag Road incline and Donkey Green area of Box Hill in Surrey to increase from 3,500. The final capacity will be confirmed when the work is completed and a health and safety report is carried out.
LOCOG, working in close partnership with land owners National Trust and landscape and wildlife advisers Natural England, will give spectators the chance to watch the races from the Zig-Zag Road incline and Donkey Green on Box Hill, while protecting the wildlife in the area.
The area will offer spectators a fantastic view of the race, with the men’s race looping Box Hill nine times and the women’s twice. Access will be ticketed in line with London 2012 aims to provide fair access and safety at venues.
Next week the National Trust will begin work to safely remove scrub along the Zig Zag road. This will allow for the increased capacity and also encourage chalk grassland to grow following the Games, making more room for endangered species such as man orchids and small blue butterflies to flourish.
The rest of the route –which travels through six London boroughs, four Royal Parks and Surrey countryside, before heading back into central London for the finish on the Mall- offers spectators approximately 120km of road to watch the race for free. Spectators can also view the race for free from other roads on the Box Hill Loop, excluding the Zig-Zag Road incline and Donkey Green.
British Cycling 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."
London 2012 Director of Sport, Debbie Jevans, said: “We are delighted to welcome people to watch the Olympic Road Race from the Zig-Zag Road and Donkey Green at Box Hill. We will give people the chance to see a generous amount of Road Race competition at one of the best stretches of road which we are able to do following the test event and our learnings there. Spectators will have a unique viewing position on the route, there is another 120km of route which is free to spectators, including some great points through London and The Royal Parks.”
Andy Wright, the National Trust Countryside Manager for Box Hill said: “It’s great news that so many people will be able to enjoy the races in this wonderful natural setting. The surveys conducted by LOCOG are the most thorough ever carried out on this site and will really help us manage the habitat for the long term.
“The scrub alongside the road has very few species living in it so when we remove it, it doesn’t matter if people walk in those areas. Gradually, over the years, that land will turn into chalk grassland which is a much richer habitat – supporting around 60 to 100 species of plants, animals and insects per square metre.”
Working together with the National Trust and Natural England, LOCOG has ensured sustainability is a top priority in delivering the Olympic Road Races. London is the first summer Host City to embed sustainability in its planning from the start.
The work begins on 30 January and the Zig-Zag road will be closed for a week. Strips of land on both sides of the road will be trimmed but occasional “bridges” of overhanging trees will be left in place to allow dormice and other woodland creatures to cross.
Jim Smyllie, Natural England’s Executive Director for Delivery, said: “Natural England has a responsibility to ensure that the wildlife on this very special site is effectively protected, and it is great news that LOCOG’s survey shows that careful scrub clearance will restore degraded habitat and at the same time enable more spectators to view the thrilling road cycling events of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The cycling road races will be world class events in world class scenery and the restoration work at Box Hill will help ensure they leave a living legacy.”
In March work will take place to lay a BT fibre optic cable to the top of Box Hill. This will enable efficient communication, recording of results, broadcasting and timing during the Olympics. It will also provide high speed broadband capabilities to the area in future.
In April the National Trust will re-surface the Zig Zag road.