I only have one ticket to the Olympics. It isn’t a bad thing, given that a friend is competing in the event I’m going to see. But the rowing, which is what my ticket is for, is out in Eton Dorney, and far away from London. Without a ticket for an event in the city, I risk missing out on an important part of the Games: the London Olympic Park.

Flags at the London Olympic Park

Thankfully, a friend of mine had a spare ticket for the park and invited me to join her on a visit. We hopped on the tube, got off at Stratford, and walked over to the entrance of the venue. I was surprised—as I have been all week in London—at how few crowds there were as we made our way to the park and through the security check.

Entrance to Olympic Park in London

Once inside, we strolled down the path and under the giant Olympic Park signs to find ourselves face-to-face with the most iconic structure of the Games: the Olympic Stadium. All white-and-black zigzags, it was bigger and grander in real life than it had seemed all of the times I had seen it on TV.

Olympic Stadium in London

So was the rest of the park. Before I visited, I had only a vague idea of how large the area was. I knew there were a velodrome, an aquatics center, and a stadium, but I forgot about the water polo and basketball arenas, BMX track, and Riverbank Arena.

Olympic Velodrome in London

That’s to say nothing of the parks, lawns, gardens, wetlands, food pavilions (including the world’s largest McDonald’s), housing complexes, shopping areas, media centers, and even the River Lea. The place was massive.

Olympic Park in London

Our work cut out for us, we started at the Olympic Stadium and the adjacent Aquatics Centre. Between them was the eyesore known as the Orbit, a giant work of contemporary art that everyone hopes will be torn down immediately after the Games (or better yet, before then).

Orbit sculpture in the Olympic Park in London

From there we walked down the wide path, which was covered with colorful circles. On them, bizarrely cheerful Olympics volunteers were interacting with people dressed in flags and costumes from all over the world. Never before have I witnessed British Londoners being so friendly to anyone—let alone foreigners.

Olympic Park in London

In fact, I found it a bit uncanny to see a people known for being so decidedly unfriendly acting so…well…American. It was as if they had imported a bunch of Texans and told them to speak with British accents while smiling, welcoming, and making small talk with a bunch of crazily attired people from all over the globe. It was hilarious. I loved it.

Olympic Park in London

Passing by the volunteers, we made our way to a Coca-Cola sponsored coffee kiosk (yes) that was out of everything except for black coffee. Cups of joe in hand, we continued along London Way past HD theaters and public-art-turned-playgrounds, and found ourselves in a park in front of a giant screen rising up out of the River Lea.

London Olympic Park

There we watched the rowing for a bit before walking across a bridge to where the Velodrome, BMX Track, and Basketball Arena were. In the midst of the food stalls at the “street market”, we could hear thousands of cheers erupting from the stadiums around us. It was an exciting time to be there.

London Olympic Park

Also exciting was the fact that an American TV program called the Today Show had its own broadcasting center there. As we walked by, we saw them filming a segment with the anchorwoman. It was comforting to see a little slice of home all the way across the pond.

Today Show at the London Olympic Park

But in truth, there are little slices of home everywhere during the Olympics. No matter what country people are from, they can cheer for athletes from their home territories and visit the pop-up houses their countries are sponsoring throughout London during the Games.

Olympic Park in London

Better yet, they can walk around draped in their country’s flag without raising an eyebrow—try doing that as an American in London at any other time of year!

London Olympic Park

And so while I still only have my one Olympics ticket, being in London during the Games is a ticket in itself.

Structure at the London Olympic Park

Seeing the London Olympic Park, watching British Londoners smile and make eye contact with complete strangers, cheering on my friends and my country, and having the freedom to paint my face with stars and stripes and robe myself in American flags for two solid weeks (let’s be honest—I won’t) is the best ticket to the Games I could ever ask for.

10 Comments on Lady at the Olympic Park

  1. How neat! Thanks for sharing all the insider Olympic Park stuff! I love all the modern art and the happy volunteers–cute!

  2. Wow! I am loving the Olympics right back from my home. I can’t imagine how magnificent it is when in actual London! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks! It’s really great to be in London for the Olympics. I had no idea how much I would love it until the Games actually started!

  3. As a former resident of London I am so, so pleased at how well the Games have been executed and received. We covered the Olympics in Vancouver in 2012 and now we sought credentials for the Paralympic Games in just a few weeks. Can’t wait to return and walk through the LSE campus and other favorite stops. Mostly, we’re looking forward to experience London in a different way. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. It’s an amazing piece of writing in support of all the online viewers; they will obtain benefit from it I am sure. gracias

  5. I must admit before the Games started we weren’t that bothered by the fact there were in London (being from the North West UK). It just seemed as though they were taking place a million miles away.

    Having watched most of the events on TV it has made us wish we had made the effort to apply for tickets as it’s been amazing to watch and also see how good the Olympic village, Eton Dorney and other venues have looked.

    • Thanks Paul. I think a lot of Londoners felt the same way you did before the Games. People were afraid of public transport nightmares and overcrowding, so a lot of people either left London for two weeks or didn’t bother to try to get tickets. Now that the Olympics have gone so well, a lot of people are wishing they had stayed in town and/or tried to get more tickets!

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