Olympics 2012 - London

Parliament Square

I was lucky enough to have been able to attend the Olympics in 2010 in London along with my wife and mother. Ever since I moved to England I wanted to live in London and then to live in London when the Olympics came in 2012. I was able to make this dream come true and we were also able to get a large number of tickets by applying in both Canada and England (here with two applications - one from my wife and one from myself - as well!).

The Application Process

The Intrepid Olympic Explorers Arrive at the Olympic Park

Of course, applications were submitted more than a year ahead of time. In the UK we were given a length of time to select the events we wanted to attend then after the selection period ended a certain amount of time elapsed before the draw occurred - Even though it was unlikely you would get all the events you applied for we were advised to have funds available sufficient to cover the cost of the tickets when they were drawn. We intentionally applied for odd events that we felt would be interesting to watch and for which we felt we would have better odds getting tickets (though my wife and I did apply for the lowest price opening and closing tickets we were under no illusion we would actually receive them - which we did not). My wife and I got about 50% of the tickets we requested. There were a number of complaints in the UK about the ticketing process but I feel it was the fairest. I think a large number of the people that complained had applied for the big ticket items - Opening/Closing Ceremonies, 100m Final, etc - so were disappointed when they obviously did not receive those tickets!

Orbit and Me

For my mother, applying in Canada (through a US agency tasked for distributing tickets to North America), her application process was very similar to ours but she received about 80% of the tickets she requested. The ticket prices were higher than we paid in the UK but the odds of getting tickets was, obviously, much better.

Inside the Stadium

The Torch Relay

A Whole Parade Came In Advance of the Torch

I was lucky enough to catch the torch relay not once but twice as it passed through the middle of London - Once on the morning of Thursday, July 26th just near where I work on Farringdon Road then again in the early evening at Trafalgar Square. In both cases the crowd was absolutely incredible in their anticipation of the torch passing by (the helicopters overhead were a giveaway) then as they surged forward to get a view. It was an exciting moment to witness!

The Torch

The Events

The formal advice was to always arrive three hours in advance of each event which meant some very early mornings considering we were on the far side of town…Transport was free to all ticket holders (every ticket came with a “Transport for London” “Travelcard” which did make it a bit easier.

JU001 - Judo (Excel Exhibition Centre) - Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - 09:30 to 12:30

After Security, we have made it!

Our first visit to Excel and it was quite amazing. All of the normal food outlets were removed from the convention centre and replaced with Olympics-authorised outlets. Each event had it's own separate entrance off of the main hallway (you had to first clear security before even getting into the beginning) and once in the event area you could not leave so more food outlets (and toilets) were present in each.

Inside Excel

Mother formerly was involved a great deal with Judo so she very much enjoyed it while my wife and I simply tried to learn…

Judo in Excel - Two mats with simultaneous matches Judo A Match in Progress

CR002 - Cycling Women's Road Race - Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - 12:00 to 16:15

No tickets for this one, we simply took the underground to the “Fulham Broadway” station then simply propped ourselves against the fence along the road there and tried to keep warm - It was raining VERY hard that day and a surprise not more of the cyclists fell.

AR007 - Archery (Lords Cricket Ground) - Monday, July 30th, 2012 - 9:00 to 13:00

Archery at Lords

Lords was an amazing venue for archery. The match took place at the old club-house end with large bleachers erected either side of the firing line. It was a very sunny day and we faced south into the sun. It was an amazing thing to see the accuracy of many of the players and we quickly got the hang of the scoring. One player consistently hit the center of the target and was a particular crowd favourite.

FE009 - Fencing (Excel Exhibition Centre) - Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 - 9:00 to 15:40

The "Star Wars"-like Arena

Our second event at Excel this time in the fencing area which was amazing - Very dark throughout with the fencing taking place on four areas lit up with neon colours. Matches were quick and exciting to watch though often it was difficult to decide where to look to see the action with four matches happening at the same time. I had purchased a commentary radio which did help as it explained what was going on and concentrated on the most interesting of the matches.

SW013 - Swimming (Aquatics Centre) - Friday, August 3rd, 2012 - 10:00 to 12:50

Wildflowers Greet Us After Security

This was our first visit to the Olympic Park. We entered via the south entrance rather than through the busy entrance near Stratford Westfield (the big mall located immediately adjacent to the site).

The Aquatics Centre

Our seats were very high up on one of the “wings” in the Aquatics Centre - Large grandstands placed on either side of the pool. It was a VERY long walk up…

A race

Surprisingly, we could see quite well but, of course, the big screens helped and we had a great view of the scoreboards as well. It was quite hot in the venue particularly where we were located near the top of the stands with the roof in direct sunlight…

The View of the Pool from our Seats

CT003 - Cycling - Track (Velodrome) - Saturday, August 4th, 2012 - 10:00 to 11:30

Inside the Velodrome

The Velodrome was one of the iconic buildings on the Olympic site. It was located at the side furthest away from the stadium so was a long walk for us coming from the gate furthest away…The venue itself is amazing with only a limited number of rows of seats surrounding the track meaning everyone is very close to the action. We were located in the first row of the balcony overlooking the track.

A Wide View of the Track

To get into the venue you have to enter through an airlock as the temperature and humidity was kept at levels to facilitate record-breaking races.

AM001 - Women's Marathon - Sunday, August 5th, 2012 - 11:00 to 14:00

The Water Stations

Another non-ticketed event, this time we took the Underground to Angel tube station along Victoria Embankment. It was raining again quite hard but I think the runners actually liked this as it likely kept them quite cool. They had to do several laps and where we were stationed was right at the refreshment station - All of the different countries had a section that distributed drinks to their runners.

SY002 - Synchronised Swimming (Aquatics Centre) - Monday, August 6th, 2012 - 15:00 to 17:10

Synchronised Swimming

Back again to the Aquatics Centre to see Synchronised Swimming. The main swimming and diving events having finished, the main pool was partially covered to serve as a space for the event. It was interesting to start to understand the scoring system and view the beautiful programs put on by the athletes.

OB238 - Visit to the "Orbit" (Olympic Park) - Monday, August 6tyh, 2012 - 20:30

View of the Stadium from the Top

The same day as the Synchronised Swimming we had tickets, quite a bit later, to go up in the “Orbit” sculpture to have a look around. This is a large tower built immediately adjacent to the stadium which we learned was hosting the medal ceremony for the 100m so we saw Bolt get his gold - In person! Ok, he was a long way away…The entrance to the tower showed an interesting video of it's construction. We had an elevator lift up but walked on a long, spiral, walkway down. We spent an hour or so enjoying the amazing views as the sun set over the park.


CF003 - Canoe Sprint (Eton Dorney) - Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 - 9:30 to 11:30

Kayak Doubles

The boat racing events were located a bit outside of London at Eton Dorney which is just down the road from Windsor. We caught a train then caught a bus to the site. At that point we were still a good mile and a half to the site so we walked along the plastic pavement leading us to the entrance. The venue is amazing with the lake a good mile or so long. We were positioned about half way down the lake so were able to see all of the events…but not their finish (though the big screens helped with that).

Seating at Eton Dorney

We had grounds tickets only which meant we had to sit on the ground or push up against the fence. When we first arrive we could not get to the fence (at the closest point that we could get to from the finish line, as indicated above, half way down the course) but later the people in front of us moved on so we had a front row view! We always made sure to say hello to the Canadian coach as he cycled pass us (there is a whole group of coaches that follow their teams down the lake via bicycles along a paved track).

AT012 - Athletics (Olympic Stadium) - Thursday, August 9th, 2012 - 9:00 to 16:00

The Olympic Stadium

Our final event and it just so happened to be our fist visit to the Olympic Stadium itself. Amazing. So many people. The stadium itself was quite simple (as were the facilities) but the shear scale was humbling. This day we were able to see many different track and field events which meant there was pretty much always something to look at.

High Jump

We were seated very close to the cauldron (we tried to get right up to it but were politely told we were not allowed to do so).

The Olympic Flame in the Stadium

Panoramic View of Inside the Stadium

The Olympic Park

The Aquatics Centre

The Olympic Park itself proved to be a great attraction with amazing architecture throughout. Lots to see and do. We felt that the amount of park (literally) present was amazing with wildflowers everywhere. You could chose to follow the direct path to your venue (along with everyone else in the world) or take the more leisurely route along the many small waterways throughout the park.

Picnicing Alongside the River

We were very lucky that the time we spent in the park was generally rain-free. You could pay for a “site” ticket (sold out very quickly of course) or, of course, visit the site if you had an event ticket. Food on-site was generally not great (overpriced and pretty much the same no mater where you were) - McDonald's was often a better choice…At least the prices were not extortionate and the quality was consistent.

"Park Live"

Near to the Velodrome was “Park Live” - A big screen in the middle of the river (small lake) with seating on banks on either side. It was almost impossible to get into here at the best of times as it was always so busy.

The Royal Barge

The barge used in the Queen's Jubilee River Pageant was moored inside the Olympic Park. We were able to get quite close.

The City

Regent Street

The city came alive in anticipation of the games. Regent street was festooned with the flags of every nation taking part and many stores got into the spirit with Olympics-themed displays.

"Mandeville" on Regent Street

Throughout the city the mascots of the games were also decorated in different styles and placed on street corners (to be eventually auctioned off for charity).

Countdown Clock in Trafalgar Square

For more than a year Londoners have been watching the “Countdown Clock” in Trafalgar Square as it counted down the years, days, hours then minutes to the Olympics (then the Paralympics on the other side).

Nelson Even Got into the Spirit!

Live Video Screens

"London Live" in Hyde Park

There were live video screens in three of the parks in the city. These were all free to the public and had stages with live performances as well as, of course, live video coverage of the games. The largest screen and area was in Hyde Park very close to Marble Arch. It is this we visited to experience the games from a different perspective…The areas were surprisingly relaxed and welcoming with a large number of food vendors and great entertainment (obviously very partisan to the UK Olympic team). The queues for security to get in could be quite long…

The Live Stage at Hyde Park

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