Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympic Park and Athletic Heats

I had the best day today. I got to go to the Olympic Park and watch some athletic events in the Olympic stadium!! My friend Katie was supposed to go with her husband, but he got called out of town for work at the last minute so she invited me!! All I had to do was find a sitter willing to show up at 7am. I lucked out there, too. Daytime babysitters are kind of a tall order in these parts. 

Our event started at 10am and we had no idea what security would be like getting into the park, so we met in the tube station nice and early. Crowd control and security is down to a science there. You are routed this way or that and there are tons of Olympic volunteers out ready to answer questions or tell you where you need to be. 

I think because we were so early, we got through really quickly. So quickly, we had plenty of time to hit up the London 2012 megastore for souvenirs. Katie is an even bigger shopper than I am. We had a blast in there finding all sorts of cute stuff. 

After shopping we attempted and failed to get some food (lines were loooong), so we just took our seats and decided to wait for lunch. We had awesome seats, 5th row!
The stadium was just buzzing the whole time we were there. We saw qualifying heats for men's discus, women's shot put, women's 100m hurdles, men's 800m and women's 1500m. The stadium was completely full. For heats. Athletics is a hot ticket! There's also music playing the whole time and lively announcers talking.

There were lots of Americans competing that we cheered for and we cheered for a lot of the Great Britain athletes as well. The two and a half hours went by so quickly. It is all just so absorbing to watch!
After our event was over, we headed out to one of the food court areas and had Mexican food. For London, it wasn't bad! Then we set out to explore the park!

There are 8 venues in the park, along with lots of green space, food courts, shopping, a stage, art gallery, viewing areas.... it is huge. So much more massive than I was expecting. Some of the venues will stay, but most are built to be temporary.

You can kind of tell which are which - the velodrome (indoor cycling), for example, is architecturally stunning... while the basketball arena is a box covered in a glorified tarp.

A canal was built in the middle of the park and the green space is covered in the most beautiful native British wildflowers.

You can see the athlete's village from the park, which looked... not very charming. Kind of sterile actually. But yeah, that's where the athletes are hooking up when they aren't competing. Or so I'm told. 

There was a large observation tower, called the Orbit, built in the park that you can buy separate tickets for to go up. There are not many places at all in London that have a view, so in that respect, it's unique. But gut feeling was this is way hideously ugly, no? Kinda hope it's temporary, if only for the area's residents.
There were several buildings dotting the park that were "sponsor showcases" - buildings the Olympic sponsors erected to promote their brands. I should have taken a picture of the huge flashy McDonalds, but I didn't.

This is the Coca-Cola beatbox, promoting London's young musical talent... along with themselves.
Panasonic put a huge, two-sided tv in the park where you could sit on the lawn and watch events. It was incredibly crowded when we walked by.
By the time we had done a full lap to see everything in the park, it was getting crowded. Like, scary crowded. I don't think I have ever seen so many people in one place in my whole life. It actually made both of us uneasy to be in such a huge crowd.

We started walking back to the tube station and were channeled with the rest of the cows through the designated crowd control paths. This time we were fed into the giant shopping mall that is right next to the Olympic Park. I have also never seen so many people in a single mall.

We did spot a few athletes in the mall, nobody whose name we knew. The athlete's village has its own pathway and connection to the mall so that the athletes can go back and forth at their leisure. How they can shop in crowds like that, I don't know.

We finally made it back to our train station and things calmed down. It was nice to be away from the crowds. We saw some other very tall men in team uniforms on our train. Basketball players maybe?

Overall, it was an incredible experience to get to walk around the park and see it all, as well as watch events in person. It was almost sensory overload at times. I had to keep pinching myself!

Tomorrow promises to be another amazing day. Through much web site clicking until well past 1am, Brad was able to get us some athletics tickets to some finals tomorrow night at the stadium. We'll get to see some medals being awarded!!

1 comment:

Megan Willis said...

AMAZING! I love all the pictures and details. That's incredible you got to sit so close and walk around to all the different venues. Can't wait to see more pics! Live it up sister!