The London2012 Games have come to an end, and it’s time to reflect on the Games and share some tips based on my experiences at my fourth Olympics. See previous Games:
Tip #1. Don’t let the negative media before the Olympic Games spoil the excitement, or keep you away from the Games.
It happens every time. The media picks a few negative things and reports it into the ground. In this case, they reported that security would not be adequate, and the transportation network would not be able to handle the crowds. Well, London called in its military to help with the security, and they were great! And you didn’t feel like they were military as they took on the positive, friendly air of the other volunteers, who were fabulous.
And they did a phenomenal job getting people around via their underground/overground train system (the oldest such system in the world). One brilliant thing they did was to provide a daily transport card with each event ticket. That kept the flow going in the tube stations as it eliminated the lines at the ticket machines. And if the crowds started to get too heavy, especially at the Olympic Park, they would open up the turnstiles to speed the flow. I don’t know if the taxis experienced the traffic jams they expected, but the one time I took a taxi, the driver complained that business was down during the Games, because the city had made it so easy for people to use the trains.
Tip #2. If you get event tickets, make sure you pick at least one event with its venue inside the Olympic Park.
In London, as in Beijing, the Olympic Park was a totally enclosed, secure area, and you had to have a ticket to an event within the Park to gain access to the Park, and only on the day of that event. In London, there were seven venues within the Park, including the main stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies were held, as well as all track and field events…
While nothing will ever top the amazing Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing, the lighting effects at this stadium added to the festive feeling at the Games. At night it would alternate between each of the different colors of the Olympic rings…
…the Velodrome, for the cycling events…this was one of the most talked about buildings from the standpoint of sustainable design, including a roof that collects rainwater, sustainable woods such as western red cedar on the exterior and Siberian pine for the track, as well as the use of natural ventilation and lighting. Read more at www.london2012.com.
…and the Copper Box for handball and pentathalon fencing. This facility was also built as a sustainable building, with recycled copper on the exterior, use of natural light and collection of rainwater. It also has flexible seating which can be moved around to facilitate different activities, such as basketball, badminton, boxing, table tennis and volleyball . Read more at www.london2012.com.
There are venues and events outside of the Park as well, some of which can even be enjoyed without a ticket (such as cycling, marathon, triathlon). If buying tickets, also be aware of venues which may be outside of the city, requiring extra travel time. This year, for example, even Earl’s Court (volleyball venue) was about a 1-1/2 hour trip across town from the Olympic Park, including walking to/from the tube stations.
But besides the different sports venues, the Park is an experience itself, including an area called Park Live, where they had a back to back big screen and you could sit on either side of the river bank to watch live events…
Or you could go to the top of the Orbit…
…and the city (although this view was only visible through glass, so not a great photo)…
There are a myriad of other things to do in the Park, such as visit sponsor buildings which house different exhibitions; watch the taping of the NBC Today Show; trade pins at the Coca Cola official pin trading venue; etc. It kept me busy for the three days that I had Park event tickets (for diving, synchronized swimming and field hockey).
Tip #3. Always carry an energy bar with you.
At previous Games, the primary fare was hot dogs and McDonalds. There were more food options this time…..British fare, international options, deli food, salad bars, etc. which was great. But if you’ve got an event ticket, you might not have time to wait in the long lines. You are not allowed to bring outside food and drink into the Park, but you can always slip in a bar. I did have a British food item I had never tried before…a pastie (pronounced like the word ‘past’). It looks like a big empanada and tastes like a pot pie. A British woman told me they were derived as a food for the miners. The wives make them with the initials of the miner on it, so they know which one is theirs. In the bottom end, they sometimes include apples so that it serves as the dessert too. This was the first Olympics where I didn’t eat one hot dog!! Although I did stop by McDonald’s on my way out one evening for a cheeseburger.
Tip #4. If you want to go to Rio, you can get the best event tickets in the first round of ticket sales.
This year, I didn’t get tickets until the second round (because I was on my RTW trip during the first round), and so I wasn’t able to get any tickets to the main stadium for track and field, and all of the swimming and gymnastics tickets were sold out. Since I’d been before, it wasn’t as important to me, but if it’s your first time, you may want to see some of these main events. Also see my post about Beijing as to how the ticket process works. It does vary slightly each time, but bottom line, the first round of sales usually begins about 18 months in advance of the Games.
Tip #5. If you find the cost of the event tickets to be excessive (they were quite expensive this year), don’t let that keep you away from the excitement.
As mentioned before, there are events going on that don’t require a ticket which you can enjoy, such as the cycling, marathon and triathlon. There are also other venues around the city, where you can hang out for free. This year, for example, that included Hyde Park, where they had several big screens, each showing a separate live event, as well as stages for other music and entertainment. Plus you could just hang out in the pubs to pick up on the excitement.
So, who wants to go to Rio! Beach volleyball on Copacabana Beach! What beats that?
If you have any other questions about attending the Olympics, please don’t hesitate to include them in the comments below.