London 2012: Olympic Route Network - An athlete's perspective

Karen Pickering, file pic
Image caption Four-time Olympian Pickering says athletes' input has been a key part of London 2012's planning

Karen Pickering, four-time British Olympian and board member of the British Olympic Association's Athletes Commission, says Games Lanes are vital for athletes to prepare effectively for their events.

"Being able to get where you need to be quickly is absolutely vital for an athlete.

For those athletes that will have a drive - whether it's down to ExCel or the O2 or across to Wembley or the rowers who have a drive to Eton Dorney - you have to have absolute confidence that the transport system will get you where you want on time.

If you are travelling in Olympic transport and there's an accident or a reason why a bus doesn't get there on time then you're covered - the race won't start.

If you take the tube and are late they won't hold up the race. You want to know within five or 10 minutes when your transport is going to get there because those five or 10 minutes can make a difference.

The Games Lanes for those athletes in London that will have to travel are absolutely vital. You can't be thinking I need to give myself an extra 45 minutes just in case, like we do when we're normally driving around London.

The biggest challenge, naturally is going to be transport around London. I live in London and know what it's like on a normal day.

It's going to be a challenge trying to get on with normal life - but it's 16 days for the Olympics and 12 for the Paralympics which is a short amount of time in the grand scale of things for the greatest sporting event in the world.

For people going about their daily business it's going to be more crowded than normal but that's because the number one priority for athletes is making sure they can do their job.

For the majority of athletes in London it's not going to be an issue because of the structure of the village being so close to so many venues and that's vital because one of the biggest worries for athletes is timing.

You know to the minute when your race is going to start so you work back - how long do I need to warm up and stretch, what time do I want to get poolside to get into my suit? Everything is about being at a certain place at a certain time so you're ready.

Athletes' input

The overwhelming feeling about Atlanta 1996 was that the athletes weren't the most important people there - it felt like we were an afterthought and that there were other people who were more important.

There were hours of delays getting accreditation and at the Olympic Village security officials would shout at athletes who put their bags in the wrong place. In Sydney 2000, there was a massive shift and it was much more welcoming.

One of the things that London has done really well is that they've had athletes' input.

I'm on [Games organisers ] Locog's athletes' commission. There's about 12 of us and everything that happens come through this athletes' advisory group.

There are things for an organiser which might not seem important but really are for an athlete, which we help prioritise. Constantly having that athletes' view is one thing that London has done really well.

I think lessons from the past have been learnt."

What are your thoughts on transport during the London 2012 Olympics? Are you based alongside a Games Lane route? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below.

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