London’s Olympic Park: A Photo Essay

In the lead up to the Olympics all we heard were complaints in England: about the cost, ticketing frustrations, the draconian sponsorship deals, and organisational fiascos. We really couldn’t be bothered with the whole thing.

Then we watched the opening ceremony. And we were blown away.

By the spectacular show, by the ambition, by the realisation of the incredible feat to bring together people from every country in the world, all with the same goal of achieving excellence.

Although we aren’t usually sports fan we began to watch the Games and were soon hooked on the excitement of watching athletes achieve the medals they’d worked so hard for. Their steely determination, focus, and incredible hard work is an inspiration to us all.

We wanted to be part of the historic event and although it’s notoriously hard to get tickets, British Airways offered us the opportunity to visit the Olympic Park to check out their Park Live stage. In a few days we were transformed from Olympic cynics to raving fans at the heart of Olympic fever.

We expected travelling within London to be an absolute nightmare during the Games so were pleasantly surprised when we easily got to Stratford on the not too crowded tube. On the way home it was the same—special Javelin trains were put on straight to St Pancras, and despite the crowds of thousands we managed to get back to the centre of London in minutes, without queuing, and even got a seat. Good job London.

The positive experience continued when we entered the Olympic Park. Hundreds of cheerful volunteers guided us in the right direction, wished us a good day, and announced Team GB’s latest gold medals. We’ve never seen so many smiling policemen. The atmosphere was fantastic, and although it was busy it didn’t feel overwhelming.

The park is immense, easily hosting eight venues and tens of thousands of visitors. It has transformed industrial land into a green space that will be enjoyed by residents when the Games are over. Even without tickets to the events there’s plenty to see—art installations and sculptures, park walks, interactive experiences, and the Park Live big screen for watching the events.

Olympic Park colourful floor 1

Olympic Park colourful floor 2

Olympic Park close up

Water Polo arena

We were impressed by how green the space is, with colourful wild flowers growing in the meadows.

Olympic stadium and flowers 1

Olympic stadium and flowers 2

The British Airways Park Live site is a double-sided giant screen floating in the river with picnic lawns on the river banks to relax and watch the events.

Park Live 1

Park Live 2

The Velodrome behind Park Live:

Velodrome

As we wandered around the park we saw a few athletes combining a training run with a tour of the park; got a glimpse at the Olympic village—the rooms of the teams easily identifiable by the flags hanging from the balconies; and saw fans wrapped in flags from around the world, although of course Team GB supporters were out in force.

Olympic Village

Team GB fans

The Basketball Arena is one of the largest temporary venues ever built for an Olympic Games and has the feel of an abstract sculpture.

Basketball Arena

Olympic Flags

The Goodyear Blimp made an appearance, although it was stripped of their corporate branding as it isn’t one of the official sponsors.

Goodyear Blimp

As the sun set the park was bathed in golden light.

Olympic Park sunset

Olympic stadium sunset

Olympic stadium sunset closeup

The Orbit is the tallest artwork in Britain and along with the stadium is the icon of London’s Olympic Park. We love the spiralling red structure representing the Olympic rings.

The Orbit, Olympic Park

The RUN art installation by Monica Bonvicini glowed in the darkness.

Run installation, Olympic Park

Although there is plenty to keep you occupied at Olympic Park we still felt a bit left out of the action. For some of the events it’s possible to get recycled tickets for £5 when people leave an event early. After queuing for over an hour we found ourselves inside the Copper Box watching the women’s handball.

Handball game

In the brightly coloured arena, pop music blaring, we watched the crazy, fast-paced, bewildering, rather violent game as the Croatians beat the Russians.

Handball game 2

Although we only had 30 minutes inside an Olympic event it was great to wander around the park and be at the centre of the action. Despite all the controversy we think London has done a brilliant job of hosting this epic event. Now we’re glued to the TV watching Team GB work their way up the medal charts (and keep breaking all those cycling world records).

Trail Wallet

Are you enjoying the Olympics? What did you think of the opening ceremony? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

30 thoughts on London’s Olympic Park: A Photo Essay

  1. Looks fantastic! We’re really excited about visiting the Olympic Park for the Paralympics in Sep. We visited Wembley for the Olympics football and were so impressed with the Games Makers and general organisation. Also we got back from Wembley to Worthing in just 2.5 hours which is pretty good! Erin and Gavin x

    • So glad you got to visit the games and you have the Paralympics to look forward to too! The organisation and transport was pretty impressive wasn’t it?

  2. Recently found you guys while searching for tips on my own travel adventures and now I’m glued to every post you make! A friend and I who have known eachother coming on 10 years have always been addicted to traveling and we are in the prospects of making it our lifetime thing too, so I hope to gain some good info on your experiences.

    I have been super into this olympics particularly because my cousin is competing in the hammer throw and it’s the first time I’ve gotten to know someone who has worked their way to such a prestigous level in sports. We were in London beginning our latest international journey (we’re American) just two weeks before the Olympics and have been making a point to watch them whenever we’re able to. The opening ceremoy was pretty fantastic and I really hope to get tickets to the next summer olympics now! How did you guys get hooked up by British Airways? Too cool!

    Sorry for the long comment, just felt like connecting, cheers!

    • Thanks for the comment Lauren! Glad to hear you are planning your own long term travels. Feel free to ask any questions.

      How cool that your cousin is competing in the Olympics! Good luck to him/her!

      British Airways just emailed us – I assume because we are British travel bloggers. It was great to have the opportunity to go down to Olympic Park, especially as we weren’t organised about getting tickets in advance.

  3. I’m glad and impressed to hear there has been such a nice atmosphere, and that everything seems to be running smoothly. I grew up and have family near Stratford, and I’m always intrigued by how it has been changing every time I’ve been back to visit in the last couple of years. For me, the sports are actually the least interesting part of the Olympics; what I’m most interested in is seeing how the area has changed and if and how the effects of those changes will be seen and felt after the Games are over.

  4. I loved the pictures! I was dying to visit the Olympic Park, but there were no tickets available when I tried to buy them. And about transport, it’s interesting how everyone expected it to be a real nightmare, but I’m so happy to go t work and find the streets nearly empty… delightful!

    • Our friend who lives in London also said his commute was much better than normal—so surprising! I think they scared a lot of locals off.

  5. As a Brit I was happily in the pre-Olympic trap of “there’s no way we’re going to be able to pull this off”. From the first minutes of the opening ceremony though, I have entirely changed my mind. This has been a massively awesome success story, and I have been loving watching it!

  6. I’m glad you had a good experience, it really does look like they did a good job putting the Olympics together. I lived outside of Atlanta when the Olympics were there in 1996 but since I was 16 and living in the suburbs, I really don’t know what the city was like when the games were going on.

  7. I’ve actually enjoyed the Olympics more than I thought I would, it’s been great fun :) but I do still have a bit of an issue with how the whole thing has been organized. So, yes I love the Olympics, but really dislike the organizing committee ;)

  8. I have not been able to get an answer to this question: How were LEDs mounted on seats so they did not interfere with the person sitting there and vice versa?

    • They were mounted on small poles in between the gaps in seats. So they were either in front of you and they were behind you. They were in the gaps so they weren’t covered by bodies. I tried to take one with me as a souvenir. Bad idea. They are steadfastly secured and it’s not fair on the artistic director.

  9. I’ve been following you guys with interest (that sounds weird) because of your Japan posts (i’m off on tuesday for three weeks with my beau!). Just read this and I thought they had done an incredible job. It was ridiculously quick to get into the park and into the arena. We thought it would be three hour queues to get in and thankfully it repeated none of the stress of an actual airport. The only thing which annoyed us was the price of products inside. Wanted a bit of lunch and you were looking upwards of 8-9quid for things which cost pittance in real life. Having said it, it’s one day, you’ll never do it again and you won’t miss the money if the experience paid for it.

    • Glad you had a good experience too James. The price and quality of the food was our only complaint too but then it’s the same at any festival in Britain.

  10. We were really bummed that we couldn’t get into the Olympic park. Unfortunately, if you couldn’t get in, you couldn’t get the cheap recycled tickets either! Fortunately for us, we did make it to the semi-final match of the women’s soccer with US v Canada. It was a fantastic game that we won at the last minute, and then went on to win gold!

    I’m glad you got into an event, and congrats on Team GB competing so well!

  11. Very cool!
    Our hometown Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and it was one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had. So glad you go to experience the Olympic fever!

  12. It’s great you got a chance to get in the park and see an event! I enjoyed so much being part of the Olympics! Managed to go to the Olympic Ceremony and it was so brilliant, saw some judo, basketball and gymnastics, went to the tennis final and last week I was at the Paralympics Closing Ceremony which was even better. A good way to end this amazing time. I wish it would have lasted longer…

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