Crowds told to stay away from Ely and watch the Cambridge Oxford boat race on television
Residents are being urged not to venture into Ely today in the hope of watching the first university boat race staged outside London for more than 70 years.
Under current coronavirus rules, elite sports events must take place without spectators and this includes the boat race, which has been moved to the Great Ouse, where it was last held in 1944, from its normal route on the Thames because of structural problems with Hammersmith Bridge and Covid-19 concerns.
Signs warning of penalties have been put up to stop crowds from gathering to watch the annual clash between teams from Oxford and Cambridge universities.
The notices state that anyone flouting the spectators’ ban could be given a fixed penalty notice and fined £200. Fines will double for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
Security officials and workers from the Environment Agency have been patrolling the river to identify unusual activity as the crews trained.
People are also being told to avoid footpaths along the river between noon and 6.30pm on race day. Covid-19 marshals will be stationed to make sure the public stays away.
Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “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.
“The safety of residents and those involved is paramount and the roads, footpaths and the river in the area will be closed to public access.
“I urge everyone to settle down on their sofa, to tune in to the TV coverage and of course to shout loud in support of Cambridge.”
The men’s and women’s races will be shown on BBC1 on Sunday from 3pm until 5.30pm. Restrictions will be in place between noon and 6.30pm.
George Gilbert, chairman of the Boat Race organising committee, said: “A huge amount of work has gone into delivering the race safely to ensure one of the most famous and recognisable sporting events in the world can go ahead in the middle of a pandemic.”