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Today was my first time to go to an Olympic event at the 2012 London Games. I went to the gymnastics event finals that were held in North Greenwich. For those not familiar, that venue is not located in the Olympic Park. However, I had a couple of hours to kill before going to that event, so I decided to try my luck at going to the Olympic Park as it was only a few stops on the Tube from where my event was being held. I traveled thousands of miles, how could I miss seeing the Olympic Stadium, the Orbit, the world’s (temporary) largest McDonald’s, and the London 2012 MegaStore?!
As I rode the Jubilee Line to the last stop, Stratford, where the Olympic Park was located, there were multiple announcements that advised us to exit prior to the Stratford stop due to extreme congestion at that station. My first 24 hours in London had been complete devoid of any lines or congestion, so I wanted to see if the Olympic Park area was as bad as they were warning. It wasn’t. It was busy to be sure, but everything was still moving and was very orderly. In a very smart move, they were not requiring people to scan their Travelcards/Oyster Cards as they exit Straford. That really helped with very limited lines and congestion.
Once you exit the station there are ample people, signs, and loud speakers directing you to the entrance for Olympic Park. Again, there were lots of folks heading that direction, but it was not chaotic or over-crowded. When you reach the entrance, there is a person who checks to make sure you indeed have a ticket to an event or to Olympic Park itself (which is required for entrance).
After the first check-point you head through security (somewhat similar to airport security). Once you get the “all clear” from security, then you go to the final ticket checkpoint. I made it just fine all the way to this point. I thought that perhaps I had either mis-understood the rule about needing a ticket to an event within the Olympic Park, or they had changed the rules since it wasn’t as crowded as they expected. As it turns out, I had just been “lucky” with the first checkpoint.
Once I got to the final checkpoint I got a big “no go for launch” for entry to the park. Since my ticket was for an event in a different location, I was not permitted to enter the Olympic Park. No sight-seeing. No shopping. No eating. No nothing without a same-day ticket to an event within the park. I was a little disappointed, but I was certainly not shocked since that was what I thought the rule meant. I was a tad surprised when I was escorted out not by one of the many folks in official polo shirts working the games, but by an official uniformed member of the military. They were very nice, but nonetheless I got a military escort out of Olympic Park! Oops!
I am sure that the rules were enacted to prevent over-crowding within Olympic Park, but it really is too bad that I have tickets to two Olympic events, but still can’t get within the confines of the actual Olympic Park since both are in venues outside of the park. At least I can say that I tried. 😉