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How ExCeL London plans to deliver Formula E in 2020

Martin Fullard talks to ExCeL’s Damian Norman, who is tasked with delivering the Formula E E-Prix in 2020, about the event’s green impact.

 

The all-electric Formula E racing series is returning to London.

On 25-26 July 2020, the event will utilise a 2.4km circuit through the Royal Docks, with the starting grid located inside ExCeL London.

London’s largest venue will be the new home of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in the UK as part of a multi-year agreement. What stands Formula E apart is that its urban location – and subsequent satellite events and attractions – make it much more accessible. Certainly, getting to east London is a far easier journey for many than heading to a typical race circuit miles out in the countryside.

To learn more about the impact of the event, I headed to the venue to catch up with Damian Norman, ExCeL’s head of events and attractions, who is responsible for its delivery.

Why, I ask, is ExCeL keen to get involved with, and support, Formula E?

Norman tells me: “Its popularity is being vindicated by audience growing over 55% in the last year - season 5 generated 310m global viewers across 197 territories. As a business it is incredibly exciting to be involved with something that is focused on the future of the planet [green technology].

“Unlike ‘traditional’ petrol-fuelled motorsport, this takes place in city centres, making it more accessible. We have a unique opportunity at this venue to really excite this growing audience, as you’ll see now…”

 

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Norman takes me into part of the main hall which, in July next year, will be the start grid for the cars.

As a lifelong motorsport enthusiast, I have never seen a motor race run both indoors and out. It really is a world first.

The hall is gigantic. Norman explains that there will be grandstands inside and a whole raft of other facilities and attractions that will create a vibrant atmosphere.

“Our ambition,” says Norman, “is to work with Formula E to make London its busiest and most successful race.”

That certainly is ambitious, but let’s row back a bit and think how this will benefit the events industry. What’s the legacy here?

Norman tells me: “In any business across our industry, if you don’t have a sustainability policy and you aren’t implementing things that will help the future of this planet, then you’re out of date. At ExCeL we have been ridding ourselves of single-use plastic, we have water fountains installed, we are trying to lead the way in reducing a negative environmental impact. We are working with Formula E, which exists to promote green technology, to improve our own green credentials, and this is the perfect way of spreading the message.” 

Formula E has built up a reputation for working with local councils and governments to ensure those in the area benefit too. Local people will have the chance to both attend and work at the event, which is a great way of giving more people experience of working in the events industry. 

Norman takes me on a track walk, and it really does look great fun. As you can see from the track map pictured, the cars will start from inside the building before heading out towards Royal Victoria Dock and racing around the northern perimeter before undertaking a complex to the east. The cars will then ascend a ramp and turn sharply back into the hall. There’s lots of work to be done ahead of the green lights, but it will be worth it. 

As the events industry faces ever closer scrutiny on its green credentials, ExCeL has a chance to show the world we are making progress.