It would be remiss of me running a blog called “London Calling” not to report on what is happening in London town this week as the eyes of the world are on us.
London has been my home for the last 6 years, and before that I lived in Sydney for 11, so have experienced 2 Olympics Games in my lifetime – something I never thought possible when I was in Adelaide some 17+ years ago.
It also means I have seen first hand how an Olympic games works – and the formula it follows every time.
Sydney has been identical to London in that
- there were complaints about the ticketing ballot and system
- eventually more tickets were released and many more people got to go to the games
- Visa was the only accepted method of payment on-site and for tickets – people grumbled about this 12 years ago and Visa has gone from strength to strength
- transport ended up not being the major issue of the games because the organisers warned people to stay out of the city
The last point is key – because it is what has made the London transport system run pretty smoothly.
As I type, I have just travelled across the underground network from Kensington High Street via Earls Court, then Westminster and finally Waterloo, ahead of a business meeting.
In the tube and at stations at 9:30am, the network was probably about 20% busier than usual for that time of day. There were no delays and I got to my meeting so early I could work on this blog post!
When I was working in Sydney for Optus in 1997, I was invited by my dear friend Marty Gupta (who at the time was a Senior Director for BellSouth Business Systems) to visit BellSouth.
While there, he introduced me to a senior BellSouth Executive who was involved with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was also part of their bid to host the games.
The one thing he said that stuck in my mind 15 years later was
“The local officials will scare people into staying out of the city. You watch. They will tell everyone how bad it will be and to stay away, and guess what? They will stay away in significant numbers that the transport system will just work”.
This was true in Sydney, where the rail system is nowhere near as advanced or expansive as London.
What I am seeing today in London is the Olympic formula working perfectly.
One of the great initiatives from Trasport for London has been their “Get Ahead of the Games” website, Twitter feed @GAOTG, and blanket promotion at stations about the need to plan ahead.
This has also helped significantly in my opinion to help Londoners plan, and also frankly to scare them enough to stay away!
What we have seen in practice is that Londoners are on holiday, have changed their travel patterns or are working from home, and now London can get on with being a big city and is able to absorb a million more people onto the transport system with hardly anyone noticing.