The River Thames may be closed to boats on security grounds during the 2012 Olympic Games

Olympic organisers are considering closing a stretch of the Thames at Windsor to make way for the rowing and kayaking events at Eton College’s Dorney Rowing Lake.

However, the plan has already caused controversy with one commercial boat operator warning that the Thames is a public right of way and would be very difficult to shut down.

The rowing venue is just a few yards from the riverbank and the Olympics will take place in July and August, a particularly busy time for the Thames.

A spokesperson for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG)  said, “We have had preliminary discussions with the Environment Agency about a range of traffic management measures on the Thames at Games time. We are looking at a number of options, closure is one option, but by no means the only one. 

“We will be submitting a planning application for all the works and arrangements next year, and will be doing pre-planning consultation with the Environment Agency and other organisations on the full details of our plans prior to this. At this stage it is too early to go into the details of our proposals for the Thames.”

The Environment Agency said there was not a closure plan yet but conceded that “this might change due to security”.

Neil Kinch, a director of Oxford-based Salters Steamers, which has operated passenger boats along the river since Victorian times, said, “This would be a very difficult thing to do. The River Thames is a public right of way. That is why it was not closed during the foot and mouth outbreak while the country’s canals were. I think the idea would need the approval of Parliament. I do not understand this talk of security. Are they going to close the roads and the M4 as well?”

In the past the only time that boating traffic has been halted on the Thames is because of major work at its locks.