Organisers of next year’s Olympic Games are planning to increase spectator numbers on the controversial Box Hill section of the cycling road race road which will see world champion Mark Cavendish attempt to get London 2012 off to a flying start for Great Britain.
The land on which Box Hill lies is owned by the National Trust. The climb due to be ridden nine times in the men’s road race and twice in the women’s event, and due to concerns over the effect of spectators on the rare species of orchid and butterfly found there, the charity has fought to restrict spectator numbers there.
At August’s test event, won by Cavendish, just 3,000 wristband holders – mainly local residents or British Cycling members – were able to watch some of the world’s top male cyclists tackle the climb twice. Previous reports suggest that some 3,400 wristbands will be available for the Olympics.
While big crowds thronged the route as the riders headed out of London and into Surrey, and again on their way back to the finish on The Mall, Cavendish was among those who remarked upon the potential effect on the atmosphere next summer of such severe limitations on the number of fans on Box Hill itself.
Now, however, the Guardian reports that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is working to find ways in which increased numbers of spectators can be accommodated.
Speaking at London’s ExCeL arena at the launch of test events in a number of sports other than cycling, Debbie Jevans, LOCOG’s head of sport, said that it was talking with the National Trust about ways in which spectator numbers could be increased.
"When the international federations commented and when Mark Cavendish commented, they were only talking about a small part of that nine-mile route,” she said.
"We are working with the National Trust and Box Hill to see where we can widen the roads, where we can do some tree trimming and really maximise the number of spectators there.
“I am confident the number of spectators is going to be vastly larger than the 3,000 we had for the test event," she added.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.