15,000 spectators will be allowed on Box Hill for the Olympic road races this July after London 2012 organiser LOCOG backtracked from earlier restrictions.
The news represents a victory for Cycling Weekly and its readers who were understandably outraged when a ‘bare minimum’ of 3,400 fans were permitted on the climb for last August’s London-Surrey Cycle Classic test event.
The race was held just months after the much-publicised ticketing fiasco for other events, which left many people empty handed.
Thankfully, this announcement should go some way of appeasing cycling fans who singled the hill out as the best place to watch the action unfold as soon as the route was announced last February.
The men’s road race (July 28) tackles the climb nine times, before the women’s event scales it twice a day later.
Fans lucky enough to obtain access onto the Hill for the races will now be allowed to watch the races on the Zig Zag Road incline and the Donkey Green area at the top of the climb. LOCOG say that the methods of obtaining tickets are currently being finalised.
Protecting the climb
Debbie Jevans, London 2012’s Director of Sport, said: “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.”
The Natural Trust, who own Box Hill, are responsible for protecting the ecologically significant areas of the climb, which is listed as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). However, it appears that they are happy to welcome large numbers of people onto the climb for the road races.
Andy Wright, the trust’s Countryside Manager for Box Hill said: “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.
In order to cater for the increase in spectators, along with protecting the natural habitat on the hill, work will begin next week (January 30) on trimming the scrub along the Zig Zag Road, which will result in the lower part of the climb being closed for a week. The road will also be resurfaced at the end of April.
Wright said: “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.”
Furthermore, following problems with race radio communication during the test event, BT will lay a fibre optic cable along the climb in March. The Times reported earlier this month that British Cycling coach Rod Ellingworth had reportedly asked for LOCOG for a temporary phone mast to be installed at the summit of the climb because of these difficulties.
Speaking on the British Cycling website, BC 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.”
Box Hill: A victory for CW and its readers