LONDON — At around 12:15 a.m. London time, the Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony was still ongoing. A few volunteers and cast members from the massive performance made their way through the queue at Stratford International Station, located near the Westfield Shopping Centre and the Olympic Village in East London.
It was the calm before the storm.
[Photos: London Games Opening Ceremony]
"Once they get here, it's very unlikely you queue for more than a half hour," said Vince Lucas of Southeastern trains with some confidence.
Friday night was a critical test for the London mass transit system: 80,000 fans leaving Olympic Stadium, and many of them headed to the high-speed Javelin train that leaves from Stratford. The Javelin was already maligned by the local media for leaving late on its first morning of operation for the Games. Could the system handle this influx of people?
Based on what we witnessed at Stratford International: Yes it can.
[Related: History of the Opening Ceremony]
Lucas said his company added 1,000 new workers in preparation for the Games, and there well over two dozen working at Stratford.
At about 12:32 p.m., fireworks lit up the sky from the stadium, signaling that the crowds would filter through.
When fans left the stadium, they walked through one of three giant arches that led them to the either the Central Line train, the Jubilee Line train or down to the Javelin.
At 12:58 a.m., there was a steady stream of spectators, volunteers and media walking through the steel barriers and down to the train platform.
By 1:05 a.m., crowd control commenced, with hundreds of fans being kept at the top of a staircase until the queue near the trains decreased in size. Those lines had grown to the point in which they were no longer contained by the steel barriers.
"Once you start the queue system, you're stuck with it for the rest of the evening," said Lucas.
By 1:20 a.m., the lines had lessened. The wait time was between 15-20 minutes on average, as the lines were moving to multiple platforms.
By 2:05 a.m., the fans had nearly cleared out, leaving volunteers and media remaining on line.
No giant technical gaffes, nor was there an elephantine wait period to get the trains. Most of the fans we spoke to said they anticipated the wait, but appreciated that it was for a train that can whip them along to the next station in seven minutes.
No wonder they were singing.
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