11:03 AM CDT, July 20, 2012
LONDON – London Olympic organizing committee officials weren’t kidding when they said the Javelin was fast.
They weren’t talking about the spear men and women will throw in the track and field competition at the upcoming Summer Games. That travels about 70 miles per hour at the release point from an elite thrower’s hand.
The javelin in question is the train – Javelin, with a capital “J” – that rolls along at 140 miles per hour on the only high-speed domestic rail line in Britain as it goes from St. Pancras Station in the center of London to the Olympic Park about seven miles away.
On my first trip, it took longer to navigate the seemingly contradictory directional signs to reach the Javelin departure platform in St. Pancras than it did to get from there to the Olympic Park station, Stratford International.
I barely had a newspaper out of my briefcase before the Javelin landed at its destination.
Outbound trip: seven minutes.
Return trip: seven minutes.
Being on the train will be the easiest part of the trip. Once at Stratford, spectators and media will clear security and then either trek (a fair piece) or board shuttle buses for the circuitous (and rather lengthy) journey to the various venues in the park, including the Olympic Stadium, natatorium, velodrome, basketball arena and field hockey arena.
Even with 12 trains an hour carrying a total of 25,000 passengers at peak times, getting on one may not be easy once the Games open July 27. Recorded announcements are warning travelers to prepare for long lines. The Guardian newspaper estimated the waits could reach one hour.
For what it’s worth, the low-slung trains are the best approximation of a javelin’s profile that one could make out of rolling stock.
And thirteen trains have been named for famous British Olympic athletes.
Yes, one is a javelin thrower: four-time Olympian Steve Backley, who won a bronze medal and two silvers before finishing fourth at age 35 in 2004, his final Olympics.
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