Published: 01/12/2020 By Allan Fuller
For the first time since World War Two next year’s University Boat Race is taking place outside London. The organisers have taken the decision not to hold the event on the traditional route along the Thames between Putney and Mortlake due to concerns about Hammersmith Bridge and Covid-19. The river under the bridge has been closed to boats since August after more serious cracks were found in the iron work.
The annual race between Oxford and Cambridge is to take on the River Great Ouse in Ely in Cambridgeshire. The event has been held there before in 1944 when it was moved due the war. Last year the race was cancelled completed due to the Covid-19 outbreak and concerns about the large crowds that congregate to watch along the river banks in Fulham, Hammersmith, Barnes and Chiswick. It is thought unlikely that effective social distancing could be practised were the event to be held in its usual location.
The 2021 event will take place in April. George Gilbert, chair of the Race and Operations Committee at the Boat Race Company Limited said, “While we are sad not to be able to welcome the usual hundreds of thousands of spectators along the course, we will be inviting our communities and wider audience to get involved via our social media channels, and the BBC.”
Putney MP Fleur Anderson said, "The news that the boat race won’t be in Putney next year is very disappointing. It’s another sign that life won’t be back to normal for many more months, and a huge blow for local businesses. "It is important to stay COVID safe, but the main problem is that boats can’t go safely under Hammersmith Bridge. "All year I’ve been joining local councils and MPs and asking Transport Minister Grant Shapps to fund the bridge restoration and he has refused to. I hope that the boat race news will be the wake up call he needs to show how important it is to get a temporary crossing and fix the bridge.
"The closure of Hammersmith Bridge is causing daily misery for thousands and the government must at last step up and fund it so we can welcome the boat race back in 2022."