A bit late I know but we only went to our first (and last, unfortunately) event yesterday. And I am so glad we got there. It was fantastic to feel part of such a historic occasion.
I thought I would pass on tips to anyone going in the next few weeks, whether to the Olympics or the Paralympics, based on our experience.
1) Book/sort your travel as soon as possible
You should try and get your route sorted out as soon as possible. And buy tickets in advance if you can if you need to supplement the travelcards that came with your Olympic tickets.
The TFL Olympics travelplanner is ok but can give mad results so may be better to do your own research as well. One of its suggestions, for example, was that we catch the night bus to Bermondsey (from Orpington) and then do several more changes to end up at West Ham which was then a 24 minute walk from the games, a travelling time of nearly 2 hours.
Following a friend’s suggestion, we booked a parking space at Ebbsfleet International’s event car park and tickets on the High Speed (Javelin) line to Stratford International. Worked like a dream. Left home at 6am and were at Stratford International by just gone 7am. All booked the morning before I have to confess – parking permit printed at home and the rail tickets in the afternoon at the local station self-service ticket machines – brilliant!
Stratford Underground was really busy on the way back so it may be worth thinking about an alternative return route. I can definitely recommend the Javelin trains from Stratford International. The Kings Cross direction was much busier than our platform back to Ebbsfleet but not horrendous and much better than the Underground.
2) Be prepared for the weather!
If you are going to be sitting for a few hours and the weather is less than boiling, take more layers than you think. The children both wore their winter coats and were ok but my husband and myself only had thin rainproof jackets and got quite cold. (and hubbie was ill today, probably as a result of getting chilled). So may be worth packing a thin fleece or similar, just in case. Also, if it rains, there isn’t much shelter so bring an umbrella or other protection to make sure you don’t get soaked.
3) The prices – food etc
Take plenty of cash or your Visa card if you are planning to buy your food there – we had a round of hot drinks and a cake each for four and it cost over £20. After that, we decided not to eat lunch at the Park and had a late lunch at Bluewater after we picked up the car.
For breakfast which we ate on outdoor seating in the Westfield Shopping Centre, I had made sandwiches the night before, packed in individual, labelled bags. Put those plus 4 x small labelled water bottles in a plastic carrier bag to take with us. Then just threw away the carrier bag and sandwich packaging before we went into the stadium. We carried our empty water bottles – see under Security below.
Also, watch out for souvenir prices. My daughter wanted a small Team GB lion from the London 2012 store on the Olympic site but I refused to pay out £15 for it, despite much pleading and references to the one-off nature of the occasion. I was glad that I hadn’t given in as we found the identical toy in John Lewis at Bluewater for £5!
4) Security (get there early)
Just like going on holiday really – put all your bags, coats, pocket contents in a tray which is then put through a scanner. But they are really hot on liquids – you can only take in empty water bottles which you can then fill up at the drinking fountains in the park. And don’t take huge rucksacks etc as you will only end up being delayed.
Having got there in plenty of time, we got through security really quickly so it is good to get there early. Once we were in the park, getting into the Stadium was no problem at all as everyone arrived over about 2 hours and there were plenty of entrances.
Overall I was really impressed with the way the organisers are coping with the sheer scale of it all – 200,000 visitors a day! We found nearly all the staff friendly, polite and helpful and it is obvious that huge amounts of thought and planning have gone into all the arrangements – with great results. The atmosphere is amazing. And 80,000 people cheering at once is a huge sound!
A wonderful day.