How barriers can keep Olympians and spectators safe

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The recent Olympics Cycling Road Race started under a blue sky at Copacabana Beach – an idyllic setting by anyone’s imagination - but both men’s and women’s races became crash-marred events and the safety of the circuit’s set-up came up for some serious discussion.

It reminded us only too well of how much needs to be planned and considered in advance to ensure safe, enjoyable and successful sporting events.

Experienced suppliers of barriers for such events go through a rigorous process. They know that the deployment of barriers for field of play delineation (FOP) requires a multi-faceted approach - from the initial planning and client liaison through to event time installation.  Operational efficiency, safety and optimal race lines need to be incorporated into any decision making.

Barriers are straightforward products but the servicing of them is complex and requires a great deal of stakeholder and supplier negotiation and coordination to ensure that, during event time, if executed well, the barriers serve their purpose unnoticed, allowing the event to take centre stage.

Continuous collaboration, exhaustive fact checking and meetings between suppliers and stakeholders will provide the bridge between multiple functions and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Health and safety implications

Suppliers will advise on health and safety implications, as well as inform Logistics and Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality departments if they feel the FOP barriers will cause impediments to either athletes or spectators. 

It’s vital to have the knowledge and capability to highlight where the cross utilisation of barriers could cause issues i.e. delineators being used as crowd control.  Additionally, event organisers can expect their suppliers to proactively communicate any pinch points that may cause congestion from restricted flow of pedestrians, as they could potentially spill over onto race courses. 

Barrier suppliers should also advise on optimal amounts of bracing to reduce the pressures of wind-loading on branded areas of the routes. 

Working with local authorities to address health and safety and scheduling concerns, to reduce an event’s impact on the wider populace, is a given. The incorrect placement of a single barrier, amongst thousands, has the potential to trip a world champion, unseat a rider or disrupt and derail an event with the eyes of the world watching. On the other hand, a perfectly configured set of barriers on a finishing straight can frame the photographs that capture sporting history.  

Knowing the route inside out

The relevant project team must recce routes many times, pre-installation, to decide operational details and to discuss the route per sector, per corner, per transition, per Emergency Local Access Point (ELAP), per pinch point with an organiser’s route management team.  At Eve, we have historically developed working relationships between Sport and Logistics that have allowed us to help analyse and inform CAD plans to ensure all requirements are accurately depicted and that all drawings are both safe and practicable. 

Crew cover

The necessary level of crew cover is crucial to safely maintain areas - as is the appointment of internal sector leads with an intimate knowledge of the route to instruct crews of any issues. Our crews deploy equipment against an internally established set of principles that minimise the impact on the localities in which they are used, whilst allowing maximum foot flow for public and spectators outside of the race route. Our teams evaluate and mitigate impact on local enterprises, wheelchair and pram users, cyclists and pedestrians. 

Our experience

At Eve, we have been supplying barriers and fencing for sporting events for many years, including the London Olympic Games in 2012, the Tour de France and the London Marathon. Our decades-long interaction with the UK's leading road events has informed our understanding of the importance of racing lines. We ensure that corners are never too acute, avoiding collisions in pelotons, and that straights open sufficiently to let the drama of race times unfold unhindered.  

Such is the variety of our experience in sports/cycling, that some events can require tens of thousands of our products to be deployed - spread over hundreds of kilometres or condensed into snaking routes in large cities like London - one of the world's busiest cities.

The next time you are a spectator, whether on site or on TV, take a moment to see what the barrier and fencing set-up is. The less you notice, the better the job done!

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