London 2102 Olympics: Why you just have to go!

london 2012 olympics park stratford orbit and stadium

This blog focuses on giving advice for time pressed travellers. What you must do if you have limited time and need to get the most out of your trip. My advice: Get to London. Get to London 2012. If you can!

On 1 August, I was invited by British Airways to attend the London 2012 Olympics as their guest. 
They are one of the partners for the Olympics, and the Official Airline for the event. They have been inviting members of their Executive Club to attend specific events and enjoy hospitality in a special lounge they have in the OHC (Olympics Hospitality Centre). I was one of the people invited.

I was invited to attend the morning session of the Swimming Trials in the Aquatics Centre. This was a great invite. Though, annoyingly, the only tickets I had been able to buy before the event was Swimming Trials too. This was despite applying for 6 varied events, and many attempts post then.

Here are my thoughts an observations about London 2012:

Despite all the Media carping, London 2012 is slick and incredibly well organised.
The inevitable glitches in a major event like this in the run up are well documented, and over dramatised. It annoys me that the media in the UK chose to focus on the blips and small glitches along the way. They have never fully acknowledged that:
  • The Olympic Venues were all delivered on time and on budget. 
  • That the Park is stunning. And yet most of the buildings are temporary or designed to not only be very eco-friendly, but can also be re purposed down to more practical and usable venues for London and the community around the Park.
  • The organisation has been staggeringly complex and amazing. From the traffic information and emails, right through to how you are greeted and directed through to the park. The volunteers are cheerful and set a really friendly tone. 

Impressions of the Park

  • From arriving at the station, you feel the excitement and the buzz. It is amazing just how the feeling and atmosphere lifts and the anticipation builds. Far more than I had ever thought it was. As you get closer to the Park through the Westfield Shopping Centre it grows and grows.
  • Travel is dramatically easier than projected. Roads are much quieter and places generally are less busy. People in London have taken on-board the warnings and are avoiding travel into town. This is not so great for shops, but makes traffic for the weeks of the Olympics good. We travelled to and from the Park on the Central Line, even in the morning in work rush hour. It was fine.
  • Security and Processing of People. This is very good. Although not originally planned, I really liked having the Army on security. Not only was it reassuring, but they are efficient, business like and very process orientated. So it was very slick. The hoards and hoards of volunteers are stars at shouting out advice, guiding people and keeping things moving. They also have people that have loudspeakers and shout out to various people, fans from different countries and raise the atmosphere and sense of fun. Getting in and out of the park, getting in and out of the Aquatics Centre and even in and out of the London 2012 Merchandise Mega Store that you had to queue to get in was handled with humour, lots of information and fast. 
  • Efficiency and Fun in the Olympic Centre like Aquatics Centre. This was so well done. Like clockwork and to strict timing. Even the volunteers taking and fetching the swimmers tracksuits had a military like process of doing it. In the centre the tone was also party like and the commentary was a mix of factual information, which was well projected too on boards, and then crowd raising with music, shout outs and fun.
  • Massive and Attractive. The Park is just so much bigger than I thought it would be. It is really huge! My legs were exhausted by end of the day – and we did not even walk as far as things like the Velodrome. As I mentioned already, what is interesting and clever is that much of the Park is going to be dismantled and removed. There are massive temporary buildings like the Basketball building which is a stunning structure covered by awning, but with a stylish shape underneath. The Aquatics building is striking, but most of the seating will be removed to make an even more stunning building. Even the Stadium will be shrunk in size to have less seats. See all the photos I took of the Olympic Park click here
  • Orbit. The addition of the Orbit Structure and viewing platform, although it is sold out during the Games, was a clever addition as gives a focus and an “Icon” for the games. For Beijing it was the “birdcage” design of the stadium. But in these games where the buildings will be re purposed to make them usable and popular in years ahead, the Orbit acts as a distinctive and unusual icon.
  • The park is very spread out, leaving huge walkways for the hundreds of thousands of people in there. There is also a canal that runs through it, with lots of greenery and flowers. A calming and pleasant touch.

I cannot stress enough how impressive the park and the organisation around and in it is. Quite incredible.

London 2012 Olympics Aquatics Centre Stratford London
London 2012 Olympics Aquatics Centre Stratford London
Michael Phelps at the session I was at London 2012 Olympics Aquatics Centre Stratford London
Michael Phelps at the session I was at

London 2012 Olympics Aquatics Centre Stratford London

British Airways Hospitality

So what did this entail as their guest?

Arrival at Stratford
On arrival we made our way to a special BA Lounge where you collect your tickets. The instructions they had sent were overly complex and we struggled to find it. All they needed to say was that you leave the station, turn left and it is there!
Inside was a very cool layout with Union Jack Sofas, coffee and pastries and really friendly BA crew. We met Amanda, who would be our hostess for the day. She was very friendly and a great host for the day. She works as part of the Executive Club looking at the member experience on-board and at airports.

Aquatics Centre
We then set off ourselves into the park and made our way to the Aquatics Centre. There were about 40 people being entertained that day. Amanda joined us at our seats.

British Airways Lounge in the Olympics Hospitality Centre
Just as you enter the Park after security, and before crossing the bridge over the canal into the Park, is a large area that has temporary buildings (grand looking ones) that various sponsors and the Olympics host events in. BA has one at the very end.
It was really well done with patriotic designs, Olympics on the TV and a feature on the wall showing how many Golds, Silvers and Bronze Medals the UK had won. When one was won, someone would ring a  bell and announce what it was and update the wall.

We had a very delicious lunch, drinks and headed off to spend a fortune in the very, very large London 2012 Merchandise Mega Store.

A very memorable day. Thanks to BA.

London 2012. After that day in the Olympics Park I just want to get more tickets!

British Airways Hospitality Lounge at London 2012 Olympics
British Airways Hospitality Lounge at London 2012 Olympics

Watch the video I made of the Olympic Park and Venues:

Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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