Welcome to “Figure It Out”, a weekly email from the Operational Research (OR) team taking a light-hearted look at the numbers behind the news.

As part of our 4-part Figure It Out series showcasing the potential of Advanced Business Analytics today we bring you Simulation in the Olympics and thankfully we’re not talking about players diving in football matches.

Part 2 focuses on Simulation and how it can help organisations such as the City of London Olympics Committee in simulating the crowds in arenas and stadiums and also how to transport them safely to and from the stadiums. We will focus on those two main areas; transportation and demand forecasting – both of which are aided greatly by simulation.

First though as we did last week we have our Mistry Cartoonist once again showing you what the OR team can do for you in simulation if ever you need a helping OR hand.

The logistics of the Olympics


One of the biggest obstacles in ensuring smooth running of the Olympic Games is the logistics. Not just of the games themselves but more in terms of transporting spectators to and from the stadiums and venues. Spectators will be coming from all areas of the UK, although a large proportion will be from London and the South East. In addition there will be a substantial number of international visitors. The paper by the Public Transport Modelling Manager from the Olympic Delivery Authority gives details of analysis carried out in 2009. http://www.publicserviceevents.co.uk/ppt/tpfmse09-bayo-dosunmu%20.pdf

With the additional information from the segmentation analysis from the ticket sales (See Figure It Out 94), this analysis could be updated with more accurate estimates.

Simulation is a critical tool in helping the City of London planners cope with the arrival of, at the busiest times, up to half a million spectators a day. To put it all in perspective, currently around a quarter of a million people travel through London Victoria train station each day. Close to 8 million tickets are available/have been issued for the Games which give an indication of just how many people the city will need to cope with. Another obstacle is knowing where the spectators will be at given times of the day. Crowd simulation is a critical part of being able to predict the commercial and operational effectiveness of certain parts of the Olympic Village.

Of course this is not the first time that London has hosted the Olympics. The biggest prize in sports entertainment visited London in 1908 and 1948. Although the commuting needs of Londoners have changed it’s amazing to think that the population has remained between 6-8 million people since the start of the 20th century and currently sits at around 7.7 million people.


You will always hear Londoners and commuters complaining of inadequate transportation across London at rush hour and busy periods and now London will experience a massive increase in travellers over the period of the games. Simulation has been used by the City of London to look for things such as the “tipping point”. This is the point at which there are too many passengers/spectators on the transportation network that it ceases to provide the service that it needs to.

Simulation will be used in such a situation in order to predict the level of activity of passengers using the public transportation system. The diagram below is an example output from the simulation of the Stratford Regional Station, which is the closest station to the Olympic Park. This is part of a paper http://www.london2012.com/documents/oda-transport/pace/pace.pdf written by the Olympic Delivery Authority on Travel Demand Forecasting.

It is critical that this is done before hand in order to have full visibility of volume of people that will need to be transported across the city. There is a safety aspect to this as well, as it is essential to have an estimates of how many people are expected in certain parts of the city at various times in order to maximise resource efficiency.

The advantage of such simulated exercises is that it allows you to run a number of different scenarios with the results helping you predict and plan the resources for a number of potential outcomes. In addition you can test what-if scenarios to help you answer those questions in advance and help optimise the flow of passengers across the city to and from the stadiums/venues.

Crowd/Spectator movement

Another example of where simulation is useful is for crowd control analysis and helping you to predict and assess the impact of crowd movements at certain times, particularly in the Olympic park. A large part of the Olympics is the commercial opportunity of the Games. With so many potential customers/buyers of merchandise and replica products the last thing you want is for the crowd to be unable to get to certain parts of the village.

A simulation tool allows the user to test different scenarios of crowd movement in order to minimise stadium exit time, and optimise the flow of customers to commercially viable areas of the Olympic Village.

Such observations of crowds and how they behave is essential in understanding the implications of those what-if scenarios and what will happen if the crowds move in one way or another and how best to direct them to where you want them to be.

This is not the first, and it certainly wont be the last, time that simulation as a technique and simulation tools are used by organisation in order to give them a better understanding of the impact on their city of a major event, be it a concert, a football match or as we are about to experience – doubling the expected commuters in the City of London in order to help celebrate the Olympic Games.

Note: Capgemini Operational Research has a strong simulation capability. We have carried out a number of simulation assignments for a range of clients across a number of Sectors. For further information please contact Nigel B. Lewis or Neil Ferber.