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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Olympics recap

The party atmosphere of London.
Here tons of feathers are swirling

above Piccadilly Circus.

The Paralympic Games have been an unmitigated success on and off the field and part of an incredible London 2012 Olympics. Every day we had sell out venues, huge crowds travelling on our transport system. As with the Olympics themselves, no one disagrees with the statement that transport in London did us proud.

In a flash it was over and we are left with nightly parties as Games Family members hang on to the friendships and fun. But most have now gone home and the Olympic Park is silent.

The key to these widely-acclaimed Games is that there was exceptional teamwork. All the agencies worked closely together, there was adequate resource, and all the meticulous planning paid off.

The Mayor accurately summed it up post Games on Wednesday night: in the run-up to the Olympics there were doom-mongerers everywhere. Interviews with taxi drivers leaving the country, shopkeepers, businessmen and others foretelling impending disaster in the manner of Private Fraser in Dad's Army.

With all the media here and no sport, the few days before the Opening Ceremony was like a pigeon shoot for the media but I was heartened when on the first day of the Olympic Route Network in operation - two days before the Opening Ceremony - the BBC people stood idly in our London Streets Traffic Control Centre and said they couldn't find a jam anywhere for the helicopter to film and could we help!

Londoners did as we asked and planned ahead. They changed their travel habits, times etc which gave us the space we needed to deliver transport for the Games. So successful was it that soon after it all started the media then started trumpeting the opposite tune. Not gridlock - we had chased everyone away! Ghost town London.

The Olympic Family had quickly grasped the excellent public transport available in this city and then used it. As a result demand for the dedicated Games Family Transport was lower than expected and we were able to leave the infamous Games Lanes (of which there were only ever 31 miles) switched off for more than half of the time.

My daily Travel News spot on the radio became a general chat about issues of the day as there were few transport issues to talk about.

Of course there were issues - every day something on our network had a problem. But such was the resilience it never spoiled any spectator or official journey to the Olympic venues.

Despite the dramas ahead of the Games many businesses did well. Even Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber was forced to admit the meltdown in his theatres did not materialise. Generally speaking, those businesses which anticipated the Games did well. Those who tried to soldier on as normal didn't fair so well. A major retailer told me he knew he would sell less clothing and more bottled water so adjusted his stock accordingly.

The regular army of cab drivers who descend on Heathrow Airport at 0530 found they waited rather longer for business whereas those who headed instead for Park closing time at Stratford, Wembley and other venues were rewarded with good business.

For those of us who planned each day in meticulous detail over months and years, the days ran through frighteningly fast. And during the brief respite between the Olympic and Paralympic Games we quickly adjusted our plans so that when we came onto the field for the 'second half' we had an even better plan thanks to the experiences of the first.

As a result the significantly different audience profile - more groups, more coaches, more children, more mobility impaired people got a great service and we were able to keep London moving for everyone else despite the whole "return to work from holidays" and start of school term.

And so, now what? (other than the nightly Games Family parties).

Well there was that election back in May so we have a raft of Mayoral pledges to deliver and this will all start to unfold over the next few weeks and months. We can do this thanks to the legacy from the Games - not just the infrastructure but the new ways of working and co-operation together with a determination to do great things in our city.


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