I’ve had some kind people who follow here ask to see photos from our day at the Olympics, as we were among the lucky few to get tickets to an event – and our favorite event at that! – the women’s team all-around gymnastics final. [*fist pump*] They wonder what the Olympics looks like from a spectator’s view (and as a lifelong Olympics fan, I always wondered the same thing.) So on that note, I’ve come to share some details and images.
First off, as soon as we stepped off the tube, we began to get excited. We were 3 hours early for our event, but it was immediately clear that would pass in a flash. For starters, we’d never even been to the O2 Arena (originally the Millenium Dome; for the Olympics called the North Greenwich Arena to please the Branding Police.), which I must admit is stunning. I always thought it was kind of ugly, but you get up close and you just can’t help but love it. So that was a good start to our wonderment.
We went in (no ticket check to get inside, just security) and had ahorrid, horrid lunch at the American Bar & Grill, then kicked ourselves as we walked further around the arena to see the massive choice of bars and restaurants on offer. (Future spectators, take note!) Surprisingly, there were only one or 2 tiny Olympic merchandise shops, and no national flags or supporter gear on sale. The arena was only about a quarter full when we took our seats, but it still passed quickly as we met our seat neighbors (two American girls living in London) and the stadium’s big screen hunted patriotic attendees in the crowd. There seemed to be a ton of US/British couples (interestingly, the Brit was always the male.)
Since our tickets were in the uppermost tier, we were prepared for the athletes to be the size of ants, so were thrilled to discover what a great view we had. We were “on the 50 yard line” so to speak, and the seating is extremely steep, so no one is very far.
The event started with a review of the basics for those who might be new to the sport, plus a presentation (photo right, videos coming but having some issues) whose drama (and production values) reminded everyone we were at the freakin’ Olympics, man! Then there was a spirit-whipping sports video played to a song donated to the Olympics by Muse. (Watch it here.) When the athletes come out, music’s going, everyone’s clapping to the beat and gets really excited and you can’t wait to see what the plot of the show is going to shape up to be.
By now you at home have gotten to see that action yourself, so you know “the plot” was fantastic for the Americans. The only other thing to remark upon is how manic it is to try and watch all the action at once. As a former gymnast myself, I know how the meets go – that all apparatus are going on at the same time. But I’ve somehow never watched one live. It’s overwhelming. You want to see every team, the music is blaring, you’re trying to track the scores on one big screen, catch the replays of the routines you missed on the other….you are literally trying to watch six things at once…and do the math. Everything is going so fast. Look away for a moment and you’ve missed it. (Five “its” to be exact.)
Even leaving is a little fun, with the screens showing a “good-bye” video of celebrity clips, of them telling you to leave in various polite, funny, amusing ways.
The only sour note was afterwards, when I dragged Mr. T to the Olympic Park because I thought that having a ticket to an Olympic event came with entry to the Olympic Park. But no. We spent an hour getting there because the tube was clogged with hoards and the overground trains refused to work, made it through all the checks along the way, all the way through security…to have the last ticket check tell us we were not allowed in. I really don’t understand why some people’s tickets include a look around all that was built for the Olympics, all the excitement and public events put on at the Park, a while day of Olympic-ness…but other people’s tickets don’t. We bought tickets to the Olympics, did we not? (Especially when our tickets were at least in the top 20% price bracket, thank you very much.) So. Angry.
But I remind myself that we were luckier than most by a long shot, who were unable to get tickets at all. I really do know that. So while the Park entry policy earns my distain, mostly I’d just have to say that attending the Olympics is fun. There are no fancy words: just. really. fun. In fact, don’t be surprised if Summer 2016 finds me writing another post like this – from Rio.
*For more photos of the day, including a few shots around the Olympic Park and facilities, click here.