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.
We were impressed by how green the space is, with colourful wild flowers growing in the meadows.
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.
The Velodrome behind Park Live:
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.
The Basketball Arena is one of the largest temporary venues ever built for an Olympic Games and has the feel of an abstract sculpture.
The Goodyear Blimp made an appearance, although it was stripped of their corporate branding as it isn’t one of the official sponsors.
As the sun set the park was bathed in golden light.
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 RUN art installation by Monica Bonvicini glowed in the darkness.
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.
In the brightly coloured arena, pop music blaring, we watched the crazy, fast-paced, bewildering, rather violent game as the Croatians beat the Russians.
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).
Are you enjoying the Olympics? What did you think of the opening ceremony? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
Are you planning a trip? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip.
Enter your email to sign up for our monthly newsletter and free ebook South America Highlights.