travel

The Olympics

If you are coming to London to see an Olympic event, the first question is: have you got a ticket? No ticket, no entry. Tickets to sporting events must be purchased in advance online. Tickets will not be avail-able on the day at the gate. In the UK, demand for tickets for popular events has far exceeded supply, and they can be expensive, up to $3066 (gettit? There’s no getting away from 2012) for the coveted Opening Ceremony. Non-Europeans are barred from buying tickets from the UK Olympic website, even the combined hotel-ticket packages. Overseas sports fans have to buy tickets from their national Olympic Committees. It is not clear how Indian sports fans can do this when the Indian Olympic Association website only has a name and contact details for ticket purchase. For those wanting a ticket-hotel package though, the site links to Thomas Cook India.

Description: the Olympic Park Velodrome

The Olympic Park Velodrome

Possibly the best plan in the quest to obtain a ticket is to ask UK-based family and friends to try and buy a ticket for you. It seems that once the ticket has been purchased, the actual physical tickets can be used by any-one. The name of the ticket holder does not have to match the booker’s name to gain entrance.

For those who can’t get a ticket - and that includes us Londoners too - don’t worry, the door to the Olympic party is still open. There are a number of outdoor free-to- view sports to see, not to mention the nationwide fizz of art and performance events.

Description: Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

The ticketless can watch sleek lycra-clad road racing cyclists battling it out on the streets of London and out into Surrey countryside over a 250 km (men) or 140 km (women) route. It starts and finishes in The Mall, the grand approach to Buckingham Palace. There’s the time trial cycle race in which individual riders set off every 90 seconds and race against the clock around a 29 km (women) and 44 km (men) route set entirely in Surrey, starting and finishing at historic Hampton Court Palace. Find yourself a café or country pub, settle back and enjoy a grandstand view, or cheer with the crowds as the riders dramatically cross the finishing line.

Make your way to Hyde Park to see the Triathlon. The three action-packed elements in this high-profile event - swimming, road cycling and running - all happen in and around Hyde Park, so you can easily stroll between courses and catch them all. There is Race Walking to see on a 2 km circuit in the shadow of the Palace. It’s a tough sport in which one foot must always remain in contact with the ground. Then there’s the very popular Marathon. Stand in the same spot and you will see the runners belt past three or four times (depending where you are) as they lap round the 13 km circuit taking in the tourist sights of central London and the City.

Description: Victoria Park

Victoria Park

No tickets are needed to enjoy watching live sports events on huge outdoor screens. They can be found throughout the city in places like Hyde Park, Lewisham, Black-heath, Victoria Park and Potters Fields. There are also screens in the Olympic Park but admission is to be restricted to event or ground-only ticket holders. Access to the Olympic Park will only be available to event ticket-holders and those lucky enough to obtain ground-only tickets (£10 adults, £5 young people and seniors). To see the Olympic Park without a ticket, the best vantage point is a pathway bordering the site known as The Greenway. It offers panoramic views and is easily accessed from Pudding Mill Station, but it will be closed while the Games are on.

Description: The Olympic Park houses the Athletes’ Village

The Olympic Park houses the Athletes’ Village

The Olympic Park houses the Athletes’ Village and the venues for swimming, athletics, cycling, basketball, handball and hockey. It will host the spectacular $122 million opening (and closing) ceremonies created by Danny Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionaire. Other sports are spread over the city: the Excel Centre in Docklands has boxing, fencing, judo, table tennis among others, show jumping is to be found in Greenwich Park, Archery at Lords Cricket Ground and, most delight-fully, beach volleyball in Horse Guards Parade, a short ball throw from the Prime Minister’s house.

With the Olympics known as London 2012 it’s easy to forget that events are also held around the rest of the country and that it is sup-posed to be a UK-wide celebration. Football is dispersed as far afield as Scotland and Wales, rowing resides at the Eton College rowing centre near Windsor Castle, mountain biking at Hadleigh Farm in Essex and sailing in Weymouth, Dorset.

Description: Hadleigh Farm in Essex

Hadleigh Farm in Essex

Another layer of the Games to explore are the National Hospitality Houses set up by countries as temporary cultural embassies and bases for their teams, hosting parties, concerts and exhibitions. Among their number is Africa House in Kensington Gardens, Imagine Denmark at St Katharine Docks, the Irish Big Chill House in King’s Cross and Casa Brazil where the Brazilians are making a big pre-Rio splash in the splendour of Somerset House.

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