Mixed feelings for residents and workers as crowds return to Wembley
- Credit: Cook
There are mixed feelings in Wembley Park as the stadium prepares to welcome back visitors for pilot sports events.
Wembley Stadium will host two football matches this weekend, April 17-18, with expected crowds of 4,000 people both days.
The Emirates FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Manchester City is on Saturday, and Leicester City will meet Southampton on Sunday.
If the events are successful, 10,000 spectators may be allowed to return to stadiums for sport after May 17, with all legal restrictions on social distancing removed no earlier than June 21.
The return of crowds has inspired optimism and apprehension in local residents and business owners.
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Charlotte Neal, who works at Bread Ahead at the foot of the new Olympic Steps, returned to work on April 15 for the first time since November. She is due to work at the weekend.
“I’m a bit scared for it, because I’ve only started working here in September, so I’ve never actually experienced a big crowd,” she said.
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Eda, who works at Boki Coffee, just a few metres down Olympic Way in Boxpark, said it will be refreshing to return to normality when the crowds come back, “but it’s also a bit concerning, because we can still see that some people don’t wear masks, and don’t care about social distancing".
“If people are following the rules, and social distancing, and respecting one another, it will be fine,” she continued, adding that she is sceptical about whether people will stick to the guidelines.
Passer-by Warren said he was looking forward to “a bit of a return to the norm”, but that he hopes that “it isn’t happening too soon, that it affects us, making us go back into lockdown”.
His friend Jimmy understood concerns about returning crowds, but said: “In all honesty, I haven’t really got any reservations at all.”
James Saunders, chief executive of Quintain, who unveiled the new Olympic Steps today (April 15) ahead of the pilot events, said Wembley has “really wide, open spaces, which will enable social distancing".
He added: "The events taking place this weekend, and in the run-up to the European Championships, are small in terms of capacity.
"I think it’s about the stadium learning how to deliver these events safely, with social distancing measures.”