A lot of the Olympic travel advice we've been bombarded with asks us to take things on trust. It will be busy, there will be hundreds of thousands of extra passengers on the tube, Friday will be much busier than Thursday, you need to avoid certain stations, etc.
But I for one like to know why these things are the case, rather than follow the advice on GAOTG like sheep. Why, in particular, are some days at the Olympic Park going to be much busier than others? So I've thrown together the following table to try to work out how many events are taking place at each venue inside the Park, and how many spectators that equates to altogether.
I'm using the capacities published on the London2012.com website last year, since removed, which are almost certainly no longer 100% accurate. And I'm using the schedule published when tickets first went on sale, which detailed the number of sessions taking place in each venue each day. Tot all those up, multiply by the capacity of each venue when full, and you get the total number of visitors per day in the right hand column. I've rounded this off to the nearest ten thousand, to disguise the inaccuracies. But the end result ought to be roughly the right order of magnitude for each day's Olympic Park grand total.
The first day of the Games, the day when the Olympic Park has the fewest visitors of all, is the day with the most draconian travel warnings. The only event is the Opening Ceremony, watched by a mere 80000 spectators, but the organisers have adopted a zero risk approach to ensure that no accidental fiasco mars London 2012's debut on the global stage. Westfield's closing to shoppers at 3pm, and trains are running extra late into the early hours to get everyone home.
The only events in the Park on the first Saturday are swimming, basketball and handball, so expect the surrounding travel disruption to be relatively light. Then hockey and water polo kick in on the Sunday, and for most of the next week the number of people in the Park is steady at about 180,000. These are the six days (marked with an asterisk) when Olympic day passes were made available, topping up Park numbers by about twelve thousand each day, which isn't much to be honest. The Stratford area will still be very busy with athletes heading off to events at all the other venues around town, but the trains won't be quite as crowded as they're going to be.
Friday 3rd August is where spectator numbers really ramp up, with numbers almost doubling compared to the day before. This is the day athletics events begin in the Olympic Stadium, which means two bowlfuls of eighty thousand people suddenly added to the mix. There's a good reason why the slidy map on the Get Ahead of the Games website defaults to 3rd August, and that's because this is London 2012's busiest day. If you live in East London and you're planning only one day to work from home, this is the day to choose.
Thanks to the athletics, week 2 of the Games is much busier inside the Olympic Park than week 1. Roughly three hundred thousand spectators will be heading here, rather than the two hundred thousand of the week before, hence public transport round Stratford is going to be a lot more clogged. Notice how the Velodrome contributes almost nothing to this total. It's a relatively tiny venue with only 6000 seats, and there are only nine sessions in total... which helps explain why so few people got a ticket to a track cycling event.
After Thursday 9th August the numbers drop back again, mostly due to there being only one daily athletics session, not two. By this point all the basketball matches have relocated to North Greenwich, and all the handball to the Basketball Arena, so that cuts numbers too. It'll still be very busy, but the worst of the traffic disruption will be over. Then on the final day of the Games the Park returns to being relatively quiet, with only the basketball and water polo finals during the day, and the Closing Ceremony in the evening.
By the final Sunday nearly 4 million ticket-holders will have travelled to the Olympic Park - many of them on the trains you'd normally catch via the stations you'd normally pass through. And that's why you're being asked to keep out of the way, or replan your journeys, or switch to a different mode of travel, for a fortnight. Knowing all these spectator numbers won't make your Games-time travel any better, or any less full of curseworthy moments. But hopefully you now have a better idea why some days round Stratford will be far more of a battle than others, and when best to stay away.