Sebastian CoeChairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games
And I can’t wait for it all to start and my home county of Surrey plays a key part of the opening weekend with the men’s and women’s cycling road races, starting and finishing at The Mall but taking in all those towns and villages that will be so familiar to you – but will suddenly be viewed for the first time by a massive global audience.
The first and main benefit is bringing the world’s best cyclists, in the world’s greatest sporting competition, to one of the country’s most beautiful counties. The watching world will see two spectacular races ride through Surrey and the local people will be able to see the races for free along the route. The general public, some of whom are cycling fans, some sports fans and some, who may never have seen Olympic competition before, will have the chance to witness an amazing event.
The benefits outlast the competition though. In order to stage the races work needs to be done to areas of Box Hill including re-surfacing the roads and installing fibre optic cables which will provide broadband capabilities – both of which have been long sought-after in the area. This is a great legacy.
There is a real buzz around the country when it comes to the Olympics and now we are just days away and the excitement is growing. We are extremely proud of the progress we have made over the last six or seven years. The construction programme has been immense, not only at the Olympic Park but also at the new and existing venues elsewhere, from Weymouth to Greenwich Park to Eton Dorney to Hadleigh Farm.
And even the established venues for our football tournament – including Wembley, St James’ Park, Hampden and the Millennium Stadium – are having exiting make-overs to feel like Olympic venues.
Right from the start we have been very conscious of everything we need to deliver and we have constantly looked at how we can do something better.
Surrey is my home. I have lived here for 22 years, since 1990, and all four of my children go to school in Surrey. It is a beautiful part of the country and somewhere I really enjoy spending any little spare time that I have.
And I hope the Games will leave the public across the UK with some fantastic memories of world-class sport and of a country which stepped up to the plate to host and celebrate fantastic Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In purely physical terms, a large area of London will be reborn, with new communities created and much needed state-of-the-art sporting venues which will be available for elite and community use.
There will also be a legacy for Box Hill. Above all though I want the Games to leave people inspired – whether it’s inspired to take part in or to continue watching a sport they have seen at London 2012.
The Games have brought a generation’s worth of investment and regeneration in just a few years. World class sporting facilities, new housing, a new urban park, the new Westfield development and improved transport links have combined to create almost a brand new community in the area. I’m proud that the Games have been the catalyst for this.
Like an athlete, I am very much focussed on the event in question and nothing else at the moment. I will worry about life after the Games, when they are over. At the moment, I am fully focused on delivering a fantastic Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer and making sure that athletes, spectators and visitors have a great time here in London and the rest of the UK.
Neil Nash-WilliamsNeil Nash-Williams has competed in top cycling events across the globe and he knows the ups and downs of the Olympic road race route very well. Here is his guide to the race through Surrey in July
On some of quickest stretches of the route, including past the reservoirs in West Molesey and Walton on Thames, the men will be travelling at up to 50 kph. The support cars that carry their spare bikes have a real job to keep up with them.
The Olympic road race promises to be a wonderful start to the Games. If you missed the test event last year, you are in for a treat. With 145 riders (67 women compete the following day), the peloton includes police motor-cyclists, media and event organiser vehicles ahead of the cyclists. Then there are the support cars. It’s quite a sight.
The men’s race is over 250km, 140km for the women and begins at 10am from The Mall. The route takes in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Fulham, crossing the Thames at Putney Bridge. From there the riders will head for Wandsworth, onto Richmond and through Richmond Park before crossing the river again at Richmond Bridge.
Heading south through Bushy Park, the route will then arrive at Hampton Court Palace and Hampton Court Bridge to start the main Surrey section.
Hampton Court is going to be a key spectator area for the simple fact that you see them twice as they return a few hours later to head back to London. It will also be pretty tightly controlled, so get their early.
The cyclists then turn right down Hurst Road in West Molesey and then onto Terrace Road in Walton. These are long and flat stretches of road where the powerful riders like Mark Cavendish, who won the test event, will conserve some energy.
They then wiggle their way through Oatlands Drive in Weybridge, which should be a decent place to watch from, and then along Brooklands Road and then Parvis Road in West Byfleet. These are less-than-challenging stretches for the competitors, but they offer good viewing opportunities.
The race gets really interesting when it reaches Coldharbour Road in Pyrford followed by the narrow Newark Lane and in Ripley. There’s a tricky hump-back bridge near the Priory where only three will be able to cross at the same time and then it’s just as bendy all the way to Ripley High Street.
Now Ripley will be a major spectator location because the riders do a sharp left and then right over the High Street before disappearing along Ripley Lane towards West Horsley.
That sudden left-right is technically very challenging. But with the Nest Café in the heart of Ripley serving coffee and croissant, it overs a great place to wait to see all the action.
But then it’s a sharp left up Staple Lane. This would be my second choice of viewing location. It will require a bit of a walk up the hill, but when you get nearer the top you have a great vista of the cyclists steaming towards you. This is out-of-the-saddle riding before they dip into Shere Road in Gomshall, which should be another decent viewing spot.
Dorking High Street should be fun – for competitors and spectators alike. There are plenty of twists and turns and small climbs and sudden drops to keep the riders alert. When they get past the Cock Roundabout, they zoom past the railway station and get up some real speed all the way down London Road to Box Hill.
There’s a Surrey Hills Festival being held at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking from 8am to 7pm on both days. There’s food and drink being serves, plus a giant TV screen to catch the entire race.
The Box Hill loop (nine circuits for the men, two for the women) is a good physical and technical challenge. It’s not quite the frightening Alpine climbs the Tour de France riders have to face, but it will stretch the field.
This is where the nimble climbers will enjoy themselves. The Hill itself is quite gradual, but nine laps of that terrain will be interesting and that’s where positions can change a lot.
For reasons of safety, this is the only part of the race where tickets have been sold. Remember, everywhere else is totally free.
After the climbs and falls of Box Hill, the race then calms down along Dorking Road towards Leatherhead before turning left along Randall Road, past the crematorium and the long run down Oaklawn Road in Oxshott.
Like the section through West Molesey and Walton, this will be a very quick section. Not particular interesting for the riders, but there will be some good spectator areas.
The half-a-mile approach to Oxshott Village and the High Street itself should be fascinating. The slight climb past The Bear and then the dip and tightness of the village will be a test for the competitors and should offer some of the best viewing for spectators, with the car park available. A lot of the street ‘furniture’ (road signs etc.) will be temporarily removed for this event.
The rest of the Surrey section is now pretty straight, very fast and will suit the powerful sprinters. The road under the A3 and the long run down Copsem Lane to Esher is followed by the right turn down then High Street all the way to the Scilly Isles roundabout.
Esher will be a well-controlled zone, but there will be some excellent viewing areas. But, again, get there early. Then it’s another long stretch down Hampton Court Way and a repeat of the route back to The Mall.
Judging by the number of road closures, getting to the best viewing areas is not going to be easy, but a bit of planning and effort will be rewarded. To be honest, getting there by bike is the best option.
You can watch the entire race on big TV screens at:
Surrey Hills Festival Denbies Wine Estate
28 July: 8am to 7pm
29 July: 8am to 5pm
West Byfleet Live West Byfleet Recreation Ground
27 July to 29 July
Box Hill Cycling Festival Dell Close, Mickleham
Plus both Leatherhead & Dorking High Streets.