Take 2 — London Calling
London venues are hopping with spirit, YMCA, and MJ
Three days in and we have seen women's volleyball, archery, and women's team handball. The atmosphere inside the venues has been great. Loud music (including Michael Jackson), the wave and a bunch of Brits doing the YMCA have been spotted. Chants, flags and painted faces are the norm.
The archery competition is a 64-person knockout tournament, and we witnessed matches in the first two rounds. Some archers traveled all the way to London only to fire nine arrows over 10 minutes and then go home. We were lucky to draw Great Britain in both handball and volleyball, which made these matches even more fun since about 80 percent of fans were locals. While we chant, "Let's go, USA," they chant, "C'mon, GB."
Despite all the warnings, transportation has not been a problem. A daily travel card is included with each Olympic ticket, which allowed us not only to travel to the venues throughout town, but also allowed us to do a little exploring on our own. We have traveled by both the Underground (subway) and city bus (often double-decker), and we have not had to wait more than five minutes for a bus or train. During peak hours things get a little crowded, but no different than rush hour on the New York subway.
Signs are very helpful and can be found everywhere. Similarly, the volunteers and security have been terrific. I read that 70,000 volunteers are being utilized and it shows. London ambassadors are plentiful and are more than happy to answer questions, provide maps or point you to the nearest souvenir stand. If you get lost you are either doing something wrong or too timid to ask for help. Security has also been a breeze. The workers are very polite and friendly, and again we have not waited more than five minutes to go through airport-style screening at each event.
The quality and variety of concessions may have been the most surprising thing so far. The following items have been spotted: Indian food (tikka masala), porridge, an olive cart, pies and mash, waffles, and kebabs to name a few. So far our group has sampled a wide variety with no complaints. Salads, sandwiches and beer are also available. Three Finnish fans in line in front of me between matches at handball walked away with 12 beers. Their country was not even playing. Prices have been surprising, competitive to what you would pay in a typical store or restaurant and not with the high markup found at American stadiums.
Our critiques thus far are few and far between. We were hoping to find large outdoor common areas with TV screens to catch some of the action. This was available in Vancouver, but these do not appear to exist near the venues here. The souvenir stands have also sold out of several items with promises to get shipments in later in the week.
London provides a wide variety of food offerings for sporting events. Photo by Nathan Dwyer