Going to the London Track World Cup feels a bit like going on a mini half-term package holiday.
First there are the long queues to get through the airport style security at the entrance to the Olympic Park. Then you’re crammed onto a shuttle bus to make a lengthy transfer across to the Velodrome.
As the crow flies, it’s not very far, but the bus zigs and zags back on itself, practically encircling the athletics stadium and touching all four boundaries.
Like those horror hotel stories, when you arrive, the destination turns out to still be in the midst of construction. While the velodrome itself is indeed up and running, it’s surrounded by traffic cones, portacabins and men in hard hats. The Olympic Park still has a lot of tarting up to do before the Games comes along this summer.
The Velodrome itself is a very nice facility, beautiful looking from the outside with its assertive curves and dark cedar cladding. Indoors there’s a bit more naked concrete that one might be used to on the corridors and staircases. But it’s a huge building to try and decorate and a venue London’s been crying out for.
While we cover this event, we’re staying in a hotel in the new Westfield shopping complex that borders the Olympic Park. The development completely goes against the grain of all that Olympics spiel about non-commercialism (read protecting its exclusive sponsors).
You pretty much have to walk through the mall to access the park. The M&S logo on the side of the shops can be seen from way over by the velodrome.
As I sometimes do when covering races, this morning I took a run. Although this sort of talk probably has no place on a cycling website, there’s something to be said for jogging through a shopping mall. You don’t half move some on the escalators.
My plan had been to burrow through the Olympic Park along a fenced-in river path we’d crossed on the velodrome shuttle bus yesterday. All I could find, though, was the impenetrable park perimeter which channelled me back onto a circumnavigation of the shopping centre – a sort of Tour de Westfield. For a while I played count the security guard at the entrances to all the building sites. If anyone’s really making money out of the Olympics, it appears to be the pleasantly rhyming Group 4 Securicor company.
In the end, I was brought to a halt by two such employees – their eyes jumping out at me from between fluorescent coat collars and floppy fringes. The bridge I wanted to cross was “not-pedestrianised” and I was told in friendly enough terms: “Your run is going to have stop here, my man.”
I nodded politely then trotted off, kicking myself for not being just that little bit more quick witted with them. Had I been so, I would have pointed out the contradiction between their instructions and the huge piece of Olympic artwork that I could see in the distance behind their check point.
In gigantic block silver letters, sitting in the middle of the park, it spells out the word “RUN”.