Boat Race 2021: Police keep spectators away
- Credit: © Terry Harris
Police are out in Ely and Littleport today – ahead of the Boat Race – to ensure the ‘stay home and watch it on BBC’ is observed.
The event is spectator free and was switched to Ely because of the pandemic.
Ely was chosen for various reasons, including its remoteness and lack of infrastructure where possible spectators could congregate.
The Boat Race won classification as an elite sport to ensure it could go ahead in the latter stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coinciding with Easter Sunday, it also means traffic is lighter today as major supermarkets are obliged to close.
Ten footpaths and 12 nearby roads are to be closed for the Boat Race in Ely – with the county council threatening “consequences” for any breaches.
Legislation has been enacted by Cambridgeshire County Council ahead of the event.
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An order, signed by chief executive Gillian Beasley, lists the footpaths and road closures subject to the exclusion order.
She says that the order is “necessary for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response” against the threat of coronavirus.
Ms Beasley says the closures “are a proportionate means of achieving that purpose”.
The chief executive says action has been taken on the basis that The Boat Race, which will start on the River Ouse in Ely and finish in Littleport, has been designated an Elite race.
That means as a prerequisite of the return to domestic competition, it must take place behind closed doors with no spectators.
The distance of the course is 4.89 km (3.04 miles) and there are public footpaths on each side of the river.
Branch Bank road that runs the length of the river on which the race is to take place, will be off limits for both pedestrians and motorists.
"Historically, says the chief executive, The Boat Race attracts large crowds of an estimated 250,000 at the river side when it takes place on the Thames.
But this year is different and event will be closed, with the event shown only on the BBC.
Ms Beasley warns that “there may be consequences if this direction is not complied with”
Anyone breaking the restrictions – either by using a footpath or trying to drive down a closed street – could be stung on “summary conviction by an unlimited fine”.
Not everyone is happy with the restrictions being put in place.
Editor of community magazine Lyn Gibb de Swarte said she had spoken to a number of the local residents.
“Some are disgruntled, others muttering along the lines of ‘haven't they heard of the Littleport Riots?’”.
(The riots took place in 1816 over unemployment and demands for a minimum wage: rioters were rounded up, five were hanged).
East Cambridgeshire District Council has put up closure notices and posted signs along the route of The Boat Race telling residents to stay at home and watch it on the television. The council says it will also be deploying its own Covid ‘marshals’ in the centre of Ely on the day of the race - “to safely engage with and support residents”.
Council leader Anna Bailey said: “The Boat Race is closed to the public.
“The best place to watch the events unfold is from the comfort and safety of your own homes on television.”
She said: “After many months of organisation, we had hoped that by the time The Boat Race was upon us we would be welcoming people to enjoy the event in person.
“Sadly, this is not possible, but the safety of residents and the people involved is paramount and the roads, footpaths and the river in the area will be closed to public access.”
One resident said: “I will have a ladder and scaffolding up so I can see it from my garden.... let them try and stop me!
“The other point is that I run my business from home and I get called out from time to time......let them stop me!
Another suggested: “If you want to watch the race, it’s simple, if you have a dog, get yourself a long stick and paint it white, take dog and stick.
“If you get stopped and they tell you there are signs saying the bridge and river bank is closed, just say “sorry but I haven't managed to teach my guide dog to read yet”
A third said: “It's about time people stop letting Covid officers and the like ruin everyone else's fun.
“We are quite capable of acting sensibly on a river bank keeping distance from each other.”
Boat Race organisers have sent letters out to hundreds of local residents explaining the reasoning behind the decision to ask for road and path closures.
They have also promised residents that if they need access on the day this can be arranged by prior notice.
Their email says: “It is a fantastic opportunity to be hosting the races in Ely and we hope that you share this excitement.
“However, we must urge you to stay away from the event, to avoid putting your safety and the safety of others at risk, and ultimately jeopardising the event.”
Footpaths closures along the River Ouse
Location: adjoining West Bank
(North to South)
Littleport footpath 11
Ely footpath 50
Ely footpath 49
Location: West Bank
Ely Footpath 15
Location - East Bank (North to South)
Littleport Footpath 22
Ely Footpath 16
ELY Footpath 15
Location – Queen Adelaide (Prickwillow Road to Station Road)
Ely Footpath 13
Ely Footpath 43
Road Closures to include pedestrian access.
Queen Adelaide Way, Ely - Station Road to Prickwillow Road
Old Bank, Prickwillow - Queen Adelaide to southern link road with Putney Hill Road
Thistle Corner, Ely - Monarch Way to Ely Road
Ely Road, Queen Adelaide - Thistle Corner to Queen Adelaide Way
Prickwillow Road, Queen Adelaide - Queen Adelaide Way to Ely Road
Ely Road, Prickwillow - Prickwillow Road to Main Street
Padnal Bank, Queen Adelaide - Prickwillow Road to Branch Bank
Branch Bank, Littleport - Padnal Bank to New River Bank
New River Bank, Littleport - Branch Bank to Lynn Road
Victoria Street, Littleport - Padnal to Branch Bank
Hawkins Road, Littleport - Branch Bank to Cross Drove
Cross Drove, Littleport - Hawkins Drove to Mildenhall Road