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Transport infrastructures and high speed rail, key for olympic games

October 01, 2009
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo

With the world waiting to hear the announcement of the 2016 Summer Olympic City, let's take a look at each of the candidate cities and the railway and transport infrastructure they have to offer. Although this is just one of the many criteria that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will take into consideration, we believe it is one of the most imperative aspects of the bid. If there is a cash injection to the public transport network, the city will also benefit for many years to come.

London in 2012

London has some large shoes to fill after 2008 Beijing’s tremendous effort. Transport operations were carried out with military precision:

  • Automated Fare Collection Systems were successfully implemented
  • $3.2 B investment, in 3 new subway lines eased the traffic during the games
  • The stations were designed with a fresh and contemporary feel


Rail from Asia Pacific

Tokyo is claiming that it will host ‘the most compact and efficient games ever.’ Japan’s capital previously hosted the Games in 1964 so its past experience could work in its favour. From a railways point of view Tokyo ticks all the boxes:

  • It has the world’s most extensive urban rail network
  • All competition venues will be served by its 13 subway lines
  • The new Narita Express Railway Line will connect the city with the international airport
  • Tokyo is the hub of 6 Shinkansen bullet trains. Between Japan’s two biggest metropolises, Tokyo and Osaka, helping domestic journeys

Madrid: the city of high-speed connections

The city of Madrid is bidding for the second time in a row after losing to London in the race for the 2012 Olympics. Although it was not successful the IOC ranked Madrid in first place in the category of transport concept. Madrid has made some alterations to its bid for 2016:

  • Its transport services will be tailored to meet the specific needs of the participants’ i.e running services early morning and late at night.
  • Madrid will encourage a ‘Park and Rail’ concept as competition venues will not provide visitors car parking
  • By 2016, Madrid will be connected to all sub cities via AVE high-speed lines
  • In  7 years, the high-speed network will almost abolish short haul flights within Spain and also to other European countries
If the Games were hosted in Madrid, the benefits would be seen, not just in Spain, but in a greatly connected and inter-linked EuropeThe major advantage of having high-speed trains would definitely sway my vote in choosing the city, and it is something that Chicago and Rio’s bids are missing.


Many have concerns that its public transport system is not capable of handling the extra million people. Chicago currently has 1,146km of a rail network and state that 90% of event venues are served by 2 or more rail stations. However, few major competition venues are directly adjacent to rail stations, they are 1 or 2 km away which means that bus shuttles in designated Olympic lanes will be used. Chicago’s entire rapid transit system carries just 620,000 passengers per day whereas the new javelin service that London has put in place for the 2012 Olympics can transport up to 240,000 passengers per hour! In comparison to Madrid and Tokyo Chicago is well behind. Tokyo has the capacity to carry 8,700,000 riders daily on its rapid transit system and Madrid is capable of 2,500,000 (thetransportpolitic.com 10/09/09)

The final candidate: Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has put forward the most expensive bid of the four with a projected cost of $14.4 billion. A Games has yet to be hosted in South America and it could be open for discussion whether this could work for or against the bid!  
Will the IOC take a risk by choosing a ‘developing’ country with perhaps a not as developed or proficient transport infrastructure? Rio is proposing to:
  • Renovate its suburban railway line
  • And Upgrade its metro system
Rio’s bid puts less emphasis on rail and more on road. It is proposing a brand new bus rapid transit system.
Having a slight bias towards Europe I would like to see Madrid given the chance to really develop its transport system. Europe’s high-speed network could be operated at full capacity as many tourists could take the opportunity to travel onwards to other cities after the Games using high-speed rail


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