My hometown in England was less than 40 miles from the London 2012 Olympic Park. The years leading up to the Olympics I watched a big ugly piece of waste land on the outskirts of London be transformed into the awesome public space that it is today. I’d go by on the train and see all these artist oddities popping up (ArcelorMittal Orbit and the Aquatics Centre…I’m looking at you!) and I too started questioning if it was all going to be finished in time! So imagine the disappointment when the ticket lottery started and I received a grand total of ZERO tickets for the events that I wanted to see. Just like that I thought I was going to miss out on something that people, some of who lived 1000s of miles away that managed to score tickets for! Never fear, if you miss out on tickets to the main Olympic event, there are other ways to get involved and enjoy the atmosphere!
One of my biggest regrets in the whole wide world was not volunteering for the London Olympics. Like I’m literally heart broken looking back, you shouldn’t live with regrets but I really wish I had done it. There were several times I had the application forms up in front of me and I just didn’t go through with it…it was going to cost a fortune in train fares and some of the shifts meant that I’d have missed the last train home and be stranded. I should have just tried to make it work!!
So I didn’t get tickets to the main event and I wasn’t there experiencing it as a volunteer, but it’s not all doom and gloom!
The Olympic Flame and Torch Relay
Part of the Olympic tradition is the Olympic Flame. The original Flame starts in Greece and is transported to the host country. The host country designs a torch and the Flame is carried around the country in a relay style by hundreds of nominees and sports personalities. The relay concludes at the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony where the last Torch Bearer will run into the stadium and light the Olympic Cauldron, which stays alight throughout the games.
I went to watch part of the Torch Relay pass along the High Street of a nearby town which is FREE to see! The streets were lined with hundreds of people and as the Torch and the Bearer ran past everyone was clapping and cheering. It may have been over in 5 seconds but everyone was in a great mood and the Torch Bearer was grinning from ear to ear, obviously a very proud moment for them!
Olympic Torch Festival
My sister then managed to score free tickets to the Sparks Will Fly Olympic Torch Festival! We went to the event at Hylands Park in Chelmsford, Essex which was the finale! It was Chelmsford’s way of welcoming the Flame…not only using it as a way of putting the flame to bed so it didn’t have to be carried through the night but to celebrate local talent too!
Some of the sponsors had booths set up around the festival site. For example Lloyds TSB bank had a photo booth where you could have a picture taken holding one of the Torches. The Torch was actually really heavy so kudos to the Bearers that had to run their stretch with it!
People could also take part in free games and activities and see work by local artists. My sister took part in a game where she had to wear a GIANT head and listen to instructions through headphones…a little like a silent disco!
There was a stage with entertainment in the form of ‘famous’ singers and dance groups from the surrounding area and performances from local schools. This lead up to the arriving of the Flame and a mini cauldron on the stage was lit. It was interesting to watch what happened to the Flame, at the end of the entertainment, 2 officials lit a tiny lantern using the Flame from the cauldron to keep the original going after the cauldron was extinguished for the night!
Once it got dark, the Sparks Will Fly celebration began! The Red Devils Parachute Regiment (part of the British Army), parachute display team kicked off the evening. They had fireworks attached to them and coloured smoke trails. They are AMAZING to see.
Sparks Will Fly was a huge stage show production with crazy vehicles, giant puppets, weird structures, dancers and pyrotechnics. The idea being that a load of towns in Essex ‘donated’ a glass bead that represented that area. They were collected by one of 2 giants that after collecting all the beads, came to battle on the final night in Chelmsford, using the beads to ‘power’ them. It sounds weird, it was weird, but then after watching the Opening Ceremony on TV, it was very much in theme!
Even though I couldn’t get tickets to any of the Olympics events, there were big screens set up in the Olympic Park showing various events. So rather than sitting at home by yourself watching it, you could experience it with other people that would still be cheering and clapping!
The screens were used during both the Olympic Games and the Paralympics!
So I couldn’t get tickets to the main Olympic Games, however it was a lot easier to get tickets for the Paralympics. The Paralympics start a couple of weeks after the Olympic Games finish. They have their own Torch Relay and their own Opening and Closing Ceremony but the Olympic spirit is kept very much alive!
The sessions were split into chunks so you got to see a selection of different races. Watching the athletics also meant you got a mix of both track AND field events. It made it all the more sweeter that a couple of Brits won medals in their races! Unfortunately the medal ceremony for when David Weir won gold was scheduled for the following day so we missed the National Anthem! But we got to see another British athlete collect silver!
The Paralympics were also inspiring to watch, all these athletes not letting their disabilities stop them from achieving their dreams!
The Games Makers still had tons of energy despite it being at the end of over a month of events! A lot of people said it was these guys that were the highlight of the Olympics and what made it such a success!
The London Olympic Park is now open as a public space and has various activities throughout the year! It’s home to the Orbit Tube Slide, a splash pad, there are bike rentals and river rides. One of the main goals of the Olympics was to encourage more people to take part in sports. The Aquatics Centre and Velodrome are still open to the public as well!
Have you been to the Olympics or any Olympic events?!