The Winter Olympics is almost upon us

January 28, 2018

The Winter Olympics 2018 is here. An opportunity for us all to discover new ways to descend mountains with great speed, and for those of us in the UK to rekindle our love of the Skeleton – travelling down a bobsleigh run on little more than a tea-tray at close to 80km/hr.

The sport is one thing, but it wouldn’t be the event that it is without the spectators. Helping to create venues and plans that work for spectators is what our job is all about, right? Absolutely, and in many senses, the challenge of getting everyone to and from the venues - and ensuring that they can move around safely and comfortably when they are there – is the same at winter sports events as elsewhere. There’s certainly no difference in the expectations of the spectators when they attend winter and summer events – they are the same people, after all. 

But, when we are developing and reviewing plans, this is where a real understanding of how spectators and their movements are affected by the environment is a fundamental building block to the provision of robust advice. Consider the impact of the weather. Not only do rain, snow and wind influence the speed at which people move, the extreme cold can affect how often people move, the clothes that are worn and items carried (imagine the impact on security searching rates) and also the types of services that are demanded and offered (there are times when a cold beer is not the answer). Beyond this, there is then the impact on underfoot conditions – and the extent to which snow and ice affect the speed of travel, and combining this with potentially challenging topography means that space and routes available for viewing, dwelling and circulation can vary both by day and by the time of day. 

So robust planning requires a well-informed consideration of the range of conditions and how this can affect spectators and venue operations. There is much to be said for previous experience, both local knowledge and familiarity with Olympic and Paralympic requirements and norms. But this is increasingly being supported by a growing body of data on people movement patterns which quantifies the speed and densities of crowds at different events, in different environments, undertaking different activities. Continuing to push for the ongoing collection and sharing of this data from event to event will ensure that spectator benefits will be increasingly widespread.

Whilst we have not been involved in with the preparations in Korea, our team at Movement Strategies has advised the design and operation of venues at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the 2011 Nordic Ski World Cup in Oslo and we are now starting to assist with the planning of one of the venue clusters at the next Winter Games, in Beijing 2022.

Please contact either Simon Owen or Kat Steinberg, our Sports + Events Lead, to find out more.