23 JULY 2012


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Article from BTNews 23 JULY 2012

COMMENT: Olympic slots

The next seven days are likely to be very important for GB Ltd in the eyes of the world.  London 2012 has arrived.  When IOC President Jacques Rogge declared that “the city of London” had won the right to hold the games for the third time many of the senior people in the air transport community were gathered at the Institute of Directors to hear the then Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon discuss his airline’s future.  His first, and clearly enjoyable, task was to announce the outcome of the 2005 Singapore vote.

Yes there could be minor hick-ups, exploited by bad news hungry press.  Nothing is perfect, but London does seem to be ready on time, on budget, and even with a reasonable weather forecast.  The airlines are coping well and Heathrow’s long established arrangements working to plan.  So far so good.  

From a business travel point of view it is believed that around 5,000 slots have been taken to date for non-scheduled aircraft in respect of the games, with perhaps another 3,000 to come.  As it is not a state occasion Presidents and the like do not take precedence (with the exception of those arriving at RAF Northolt).  Airport Coordination Ltd is looking after all matters but applications need to made to the fixed-base operators at the various airports.  Helicopters are banned over London with the exception of Battersea which is promoting the use of speedboats via Limehouse to the Olympic Park.

Unless travellers have diplomatic status or are part of the Olympic ‘family’ the problems are likely to be with ground transportation. 

It is understood that Luton is now fully booked and Cranfield, 20 miles on the M1 motorway to the north, is being offered as an alternative.  Stansted has plenty of space and aircraft parking facilities and an hourly train service to Stratford.
Southend could prove to be the most popular Olympic airport.  It also offers up to nine train services per hour to Stratford.  Biggin Hill is still open for bookings, and is ideal for the Greenwich venues.  Farnborough has plenty of slots, as has Oxford and Cambridge. 

It was predicted 12 months ago that the Olympics would require 10,000 slots and that not a hotel room would be available in London over the busiest two weeks.  So far both have been proven wrong.

In 1896 the founder of the modern Olympics Baron Pierre de Coubertin, summed up the whole culture of the occasion, true for all whether it be athlete, organiser or spectator "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part”. 

Get into the spirit of the games and enjoy until the final Paralympic event.

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