This post is part of Viator’s coverage of the London Olympics. Leading up to the Games and every day during the Games, we’ll be posting tips from our London-based blogger, Philippa. Be sure to check back often for the latest updates on happenings around London, news on special events and tips for what to see and do in London and the surrounding area while you’re visiting!
So far all the dire predictions of crowds and transport chaos have failed to come true. London seems to be coping well with hosting the Olympic Games – although there are still many days remaining.
80,000 people left the opening ceremony without major delays even though the event ran well past midnight, but London kept the trains running until 2:30am – unheard of!
The first day of competition on the Monday was the big test, but most people reported no problems getting out to Olympic Park. The stations which were expected to be very congested: London Bridge, Bank, Charing Cross, St Pancras and the Jubilee and DLR lines were busy but have been nowhere near as crowded as predicted which is good news.
Perhaps part of the reason for the lack of crowds can be seen in all those empty seats at venues: many ticket holders (usually sponsors) have not turned up which happens at all Olympics in the early days. It’s annoying for people who really wanted to go and couldn’t get a ticket, so the London Olympic Committee have released 3,000 extra tickets for gymnastics and volleyball. More may be released as the organisers are keen to fill those empty seats, so keep an eye on the ticketing site – availability is literally changing by the hour.
When the Athletics competitions in the Olympic Stadium itself begin on August 3rd thousands more people will be heading out to Stratford each day. Things are likely to get busier then.
So far even the strict airport style security checks at the Olympic Park have been going smoothly with no one complaining of delays getting into the site.
All the day passes to Olympic Park have now sold out, and they were only available for the first week, before the Athletics competition begins. So only head out to the site if you have events tickets. If you have tickets for an evening event, you are allowed into the site anytime you arrive, even if it’s early morning, so you can spend a whole day soaking up the atmosphere onsite.
There is also a huge Westfield shopping complex right next to the Olympic site with branches of most of London’s best shops, great restaurants and cafes so everything you need is in one place. It’s one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe.
There were some issues with the Visa card system at Wembley Arena and as a backup plan it might be a good idea to take some cash with you into the venues rather than just relying on card payments.
The weather has been erratic so pack for hot sunshine and heavy rain – typical London.
In central London itself, the crowds have also been less than expected and some shops and cafes have closed for holidays or renovations as local residents and offices have shut in anticipation of the huge influx of tourists. But so far the only real crowds I’ve seen have been outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square where only two entrances are open and bag security checks are being done, an extra security measure during the Olympics. The other galleries and museums are operating as usual and are not excessively crowded.
One new exhibition that just opened is The Olympic Journey at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. For two weeks only they’ve got artefacts, photos and film from The Olympic Museum in Lausanne of the whole history of the modern Olympics, including summer Olympic Medals since 1896 and summer Olympic Torches since 1936. It runs until August 12th and is free.
So, overall, in these early days of the Games, London is functioning well and everyone seems to be having a good time. While being around Russell Square, I’ve seen a lot of buses pass by full of athletes and watched them perform in events broadcasted on the big screens in pubs and parks. Apart from the annoying rain, London’s Olympic party is going well.