We didn’t come to London for the Olympics, but like most people, we tuned in to the world event—may as well, right?
Our only experience attending the Olympics Games had been in Beijing, in 2008. Buying tickets had been straightforward then: we had entered the lottery a few month before the Games, thinking that Feng’s parents may want to go or that we could always make the trip—which we had ended up doing—and we had “won” the right to buy tickets for a few events, including for the closing ceremony.
Beijing 2008 had been a great experience, both because it had given us an excuse to travel back to Beijing where we had met in 1999, and because we have ties with China. Besides, the tickets to Olympics events were cheap back then.
So even though we were not in London to attend the Games, we were kind of hoping to have the chance to do something Olympics-related, such as going to a low-demand event.
Well, no such luck. Sorry to say London 2012, but I found Beijing 2008 was much better organized.
The first disappointment was that there were very few big screens to watch events such as the opening ceremony. Hyde Park, one of the semi-public Olympic sites, was crowded and there was a several-hour-long queue to go through security the night we attempted to go. Add to that the cold and rain and we watched the opening ceremony in our hotel room.
A couple of days later, we decided to take the Tube to Stratford, to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Olympic Park. In Beijing, you couldn’t enter the Olympic Park if you didn’t have tickets to a same-day event, but you could still see the buildings and get fairly close.
We realized how crowded Stratford was as soon as we stepped out of the Tube. It was very confusing: people were queuing to get on and off the trains and hordes of pink-clad volunteers were trying to deal with the mob with more or less success. We soon realized you couldn’t go anywhere without a ticket to an event, not even close to the park. We wasted a couple of a hours on that one.
Greenwich Park, London’s oldest Royal Park and the venue that hosted the Equestrian competitions, was a little bit more open to the public, and the surroundings were very nice with the Old Royal Naval College.
We then took the bus to North Greenwich, on the Greenwich peninsula, site of the O2 that hosted Artistic and Trampoline Gymnastics, as well as some matches in the Basketball competitions.
From there, we took the really cool Thames cable car, a gondola line that crosses the River Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks, site of the Excel Centre.
Now, the most frustrating part was not being able to attend any event, even though it appeared very quickly (as in day two of the Olympics) that they weren’t sold out, which looked kind of bad. British people were pretty annoyed, especially considering these rows of empty seats were apparently the free seats offered to various sponsors and employees who hadn’t bothered showing up.
So some seats were released to the general public. The trick? You had to buy them online, and if you didn’t have a European address and credit card, you had to go through CoSport, the official ticket seller. But to pick up tickets, there was a massive queue at the only pick-up location (a six-hour long wait!).
Not worth the hassle.
Tickets for the events were also much more expensive than in Beijing, so we decided to soak up the Olympics fever as outsiders, and to enjoy our time in London instead of wasting out energy trying to get a piece of the Olympics.
You can see all the pictures taken in London on Flickr.