London 2012 Olympics

 London, England, UK

And now a brief interlude from our normally scheduled blogging.

Greg’s sister and her husband live in London and we had the good fortune to be able to join them for their 5th wedding anniversary.

It should be noted that we did not come to London for the games.

But come on, it’s right here.  Right freaking here.   Breathing down our necks…

How many times in life will we just happen to stumble across an Olympic games in progress?

And, the questions we were more interested in:

  • What don’t the TV cameras show us?
  • How do the locals experience the games?

(PS – after traveling for several years we thought we’d be all over the opening ceremony “identify the country and where it’s located during the march of nations” game.  Nope, we still suck at that.  No matter how many countries we get to, there always seem to be more…)

Our Olympic experience has been mixed but overall positive.  It comes down to this: the administrators are horrible and the volunteers on the ground, working with the fans day in and day out, are enthused, excited, upbeat, incredibly helpful and overall just amazing.

While one doesn’t make up for the other, having a volunteer do everything in their power to help you when you can’t get to the ticket office to buy a ticket without a ticket to enter the park that is not actually on sale (yes, that happened to us) does make one feel a little better.

(And yes, you need a paid ticket to enter the Olympic village.  Not to go into any event, just to walk around you need a ticket…which they don’t have outside the village and you can’t buy online.  So how do you get one?  Excellent question!)

Especially when one takes into account the volunteers themselves can’t even get tickets…and while those tickets are not being sold to us or the volunteers, at that exact moment British soldiers who were, 2 weeks before the games mind you, suddenly pressed into service to provide security when the private firm that was hired – with millions of taxpayer pounds (non-refundable) – announced they were only able to provide half of the security personnel required for the games… those soldiers are being ordered to, during their free time mind you, show up and “fill the seats” that other people would happily pay for so that the events that were said to be “sold out” by the committee did not have massive empty holes in the stands consisting of hundreds of unoccupied seats…

…while we (and the volunteers) are standing outside the arena willing to pay money to go in and being staunchly refused because the Olympic village doesn’t even have a ticket office that sells tickets (except when sometimes they do…and even then you can’t get to it without a ticket…)

The one consolation here is that the soldiers get good seats to sold out events.

Read that through a few times, spend a few minutes poking around the horrible website that they have set up as the primary ticketing system: (to the exclusion of any physical ticketing offices even) and you’ll see the easily averted logistical nightmare the organizing committee brought down upon itself.

There were upsides though.  Like we said the volunteers on the ground and the military staff are amazing hosts and have gone out of their way to make everyone feel really welcome.  There are a couple of events we could go watch for free as they wound their way through London: like the road cycle races we attended or the outside marathon swimming or the race-walk Greg so badly wanted to go to (because, well, come on.  It’s race walking!)  Finally whether it was on the Chunnel train to the games or walking along the streets downtown on a sunny afternoon, (yes, they have a few of those in the UK) you just never know when you will cross paths with a real live Olympian!

Also, not all the action was in front of the camera.  Watching film crew violate every safety rule possible by standing on the back of moving motorcycles (while going more than 30 mph!) in order to better film the cyclists was a sight to behold.

And speaking of cameras, the BBC has done itself proud.  Even on this side of the pond the “#NBCfail” hashtag has entered the public consciousness and the occasional jibe to the effect of “well the Americans should be quite proud of their win…in about 8 hours” is not unheard of.  The BBC, on the other hand, has done a fantastic job bringing every second of the Olympics into the homes of its customers.  We have personally lost count of the number of channels simultaneously broadcasting everything from sailing to fencing to field hockey to eventing (AKA horse jumping).  It is staggering.

In the end this is Britannia right?  The people who taught the Kiwis that all one needs to survive the most adverse of conditions are a warm cup of tea and a stiff upper lip.

No silly ticketing debacles could possibly derail the unstoppable national juggernaut that is British pride… 

…as long as the local pub is open at least.

Then, after a week of battling the ticket war, the unthinkable happened:

We got tickets: real, actual, oh my gosh they have the holographic seal and our names printed on them and we can actually really go to a London 2012 event this is so awesome tickets…

For a Team USA event even!!!!

Team USA Women’s Soccer… football… whatever!  Here we come!

It’s interesting what events do and do not make it into the games.  For example, Badminton gold is fiercely fought over (and the source of some scandal this year) but the national sport of French Polynesia has yet to find representation.


About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at!


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