Still deliberating over whether to go to the sailing Olympics in Weymouth?
If you’re still undecided as to whether you should pop down to Weymouth or not, the short answer is yes, don’t hesitate, just get there even if it is just for the day.
Having said that, I sympathise with your dilemma as there are certainly mixed messages coming from the hosts.
With just days to go before the big event kicked off and after several years of development, SW Trains’ managing director decided to announce that the company would prefer that you didn’t travel down to Weymouth, at least not with them. Apparently their trains aren’t up big enough and there isn’t enough power on the electrified route. They can’t make the trains any longer, you will not be able to bring your bike and by the sounds of it a bus service from Bournemouth is the most likely option when things get busy.
Given the timing of the announcement it is difficult not to see this as a knee jerk, backside covering reaction by a company that has suddenly got stage fright. Why didn’t the MD speak up when the town knew it had the Games? An entire sailing centre and a couple of marinas have been built in the time SW Trains kept quiet about its problems.
Then came the news that the staff themselves would prefer to use the Games to promote their pay dispute rather than provide a smooth service as they announced they would work to rule.
So it would be hardly surprising if you decided to drive down, using the new and controversial Weymouth relief road. But if you do decide to take your car you will be confronted by sign after sign reminding you that town parking is ‘strictly limited’. This may well be the case but there is no helpful en route advice as to the best park and rides and how to get there, just a thinly veiled message, stay away. No wonder the locals themselves are confused about what the Games might mean for them when their own council appears to be more interested in dissuading people rather than encouraging them.
But don’t be put off.
Weymouth is a fantastic seaside town surrounded by some spectacular countryside. Parts of the town have been newly refurbished to provide an intriguing contrast between the brightly coloured bucket and spade beachside, its classic Victorian architecture and the newly spruced up dockside area of the town with its trendy pubs, hanging baskets and colourfully chalked menu boards. Both have their place and both contribute to an atmosphere that is new to the sailing Olympics. Qingdao had no soul and Athens had no public access at all and was too hot to venture out anyway.
But even if you’ve got tickets to the spectator area at the Nothe, I’ll bet there are some issues you didn’t know about that might make you think twice.
For starters there is no seating, at least not with chairs. Picnic seating is the official wording, meaning on the grass. But don’t think of bringing a picnic hamper and chairs because they won’t be allowed through security. You are allowed ‘one small backpack or a handbag’. The official line says that you can bring a small snack, but a big wallet might be required as the information goes on to say that ‘There’s a wide variety of healthy and tasty food inside the Nothe’, I’ll say no more.
There is little doubt that there will be plenty of complaints when spectators arrive to discover how much a patch on the grass has cost.
But, for all the obstacles and irritating issues this is a rare opportunity to see Olympic sailing for real. As sailors we know that most of the action will take place sufficiently away from the land to be out of sight for all but those with good binoculars and yet the atmosphere around the Games will surely be worth it in itself. At the Nothe the racing should take place sufficiently close for you to see what is going on and a large outdoor screen and commentary will keep you close to the blow by blow action that happens on the race course. I say should because in certain wind conditions where the Nothe fort casts a wind shadow over the course, the racing will be moved away from the normal medal race area. Let’s just hope that we don’t get any NW breeze.
But those that went to the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia where giant screens and commentary brought the racing ashore and top life can doubtless vouch for how well a day out at the races worked and there is little reason why Weymouth should be any different. The boats have tracking, there are camera angles galore and even between racing on the medal race course, there is bound to be racing on other courses around the bay that will be covered.
Having spent years traipsing back and forth to Weymouth and having developed a good feel for the area, (and it’s decent pubs and Indian restaurants), I still couldn’t wait to find out how the seaside town had dressed itself up for the main event. So this weekend as the jet stream headed north and the sunshine slid in underneath, I made a beeline for the town before the action starts.
The bottom line is that despite the headline news of doom and gloom, once you break through the barrage of reasons as to why you should not make the trip and break into the town, Weymouth is dressing up for the big event. Whether it’s fish and chips and ice creams on the beach, or binoculars and note pads on the hills, there will be plenty to do and see and a one off atmosphere to experience.
This really is a one off event and you have to be there.
YW Goes Live with Livestream
To stay in touch with every move of every day as the sailing Olympics gets under way, check in with our new YW/Livestream site where we will keep you updated with a daily stream of pictures and words from front of house to backstage at the 2012 Olympics.
YW Olympic Microsite
Make sure you bookmark our dedicated Olympic website
What when and where?
Download the race schedule showing which classes are sailing on which course areas as well as details of the courses themselves