My Olympic Spectator Experience

French Women's Team
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French Women's Team
Source: Erin Mellor

What's It Like To Be An Olympic Fan?

I've been a fan of the OlympicGames ever since I first remember seeing the Montreal Games on TV in 1976. I never thought I'd get to see an Olympic Games in person, but then London was awarded the Games for 2012. I had a chance of seeing the Games, live and in person.

I live in England, about 100 miles from London, but it was clear that getting tickets without a sackload of cash or a sponsor connection was not going to be easy. The application process was tricky, as although the rules were simple, they were fraught with the risk of getting none or paying thousands of pound for too many tickets.

I didn't get the exact tickets I wanted, but I did get some tickets to both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The experience was wonderful, and one I'll remember forever. Here's my experience, with a few hints and tips in case you're lucky enough to be able to go one day.

(A member of the French football team after losing to Canada in the Bronze medal play off)

Team USA Fans
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Team USA Fans
Source: Erin Mellor

Getting Tickets For The Olympics

I registered on the official London 2012 ticket website to select which events I wanted to go to, choose the sessions, decide on a price level and commit to buying any tickets I ordered. I'd have liked to say "I'll take any pairs tickets for the track cycling, and I'd like three for athletics at the Olympic Stadium, but I'm not fussy about which event, and if you want to pick any sort of Olympic sport like archery, rowing or a marshal art, I'll take a pair for that.", but no such luck I had to pick exact events, and if I got tickets I'd have to pay for all of them, but demand was such that I might get none.

I had to gamble - should I just select the events I really wanted to see (and could afford), or should I risk selecting lots of events and hope that I'd end up with some.

With a bit of co-ordination with family we formed an informal cartel, all agreeing to order too many tickets, and share out what we got in the ticket lottery. We added an equal smattering of Paralympic tickets too, on the same basis.

The only way to pay for tickets was by Visa, as Visa was a sponsor. As soon as the tickets were allotted, payment would be taken, if the payment request was rejected then all the tickets would go elsewhere. I didn't want to order a new credit card so used my Visa Debit and transferred my savings in, more in hope than expectation.

I chose cycling, boxing, swimming, athletics, fencing and, as a safety back-up, football. I didn't really want to see football, it's not a real Olympic sport, but as the stadium in my old home town was being used, and ticket sales were expected to be low, I added a selection, in the hope of at least getting some Olympic tickets.

In the lottery I got all the football tickets I ordered, but nothing else. Everyone I knew who had tried for tickets got football and nothing else, but I wasn't disappointed - I was going to the Olympics!

I later had a call from a distant relative, he'd got tickets to Paralympic cycling, and couldn't go - would I like his tickets? Absolutely!

Fun With Fans

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A Young Canadian Fan Leads The CheersSouth Korean Fans Get In The MoodThere's A Good Chance You'll Be On TV, So Send A Message HomeSwiss Fans With A GamesMakerThe French do like to wear chickens on their heads at sporting occasionsThis policeman was constantly having his picture taken with people looking at his watch.  It seems that asking a "Bobby" for the time is a thing.The Australians seemed to be having a good time, all of the time.
A Young Canadian Fan Leads The Cheers
See all 13 photos
A Young Canadian Fan Leads The Cheers
South Korean Fans Get In The Mood
See all 13 photos
South Korean Fans Get In The Mood
There's A Good Chance You'll Be On TV, So Send A Message Home
See all 13 photos
There's A Good Chance You'll Be On TV, So Send A Message Home
Swiss Fans With A GamesMaker
See all 13 photos
Swiss Fans With A GamesMaker
The French do like to wear chickens on their heads at sporting occasions
See all 13 photos
The French do like to wear chickens on their heads at sporting occasions
This policeman was constantly having his picture taken with people looking at his watch.  It seems that asking a "Bobby" for the time is a thing.
See all 13 photos
This policeman was constantly having his picture taken with people looking at his watch. It seems that asking a "Bobby" for the time is a thing.
The Australians seemed to be having a good time, all of the time.
See all 13 photos
The Australians seemed to be having a good time, all of the time.

I loved meeting people from around the world. We may not have been able to communicate with language, but we could trade smiles, songs and snacks. Everyone was there to have fun.

I found myself choosing teams or competitors to support based on the enthusiasm levels of the nationalities around me. The Olympics is a great way to meet people from every corner of the globe.

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French Cheerleaders
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French Cheerleaders
Source: Erin Mellor

Travel To Olympic Events

With the tickets came plenty of information on how to travel to Olympic events. Public transport links were explained, along with the specially laid on Olympic transport.

I went to three football events, all north of London, and the Paralympic Cycling at Brands Hatch motor racing circuit in Kent, east of London. For the football events the routine was simple, get to the railway station in the city and there were buses laid on to take you straight to the stadium. If you wanted to drive you'd have to park miles away and get a shuttle bus, the railway was the best route. For the cycling we drove to a large field miles from the circuit and buses took us to the event, minimising traffic.

The "Games Makers" were in charge of making sure people found the right bus, and got to the right turnstiles. They were a huge success at the London 2012 games. They were all volunteers, and had been through quite a selection process. Every single one I met was friendly, welcoming, helpful and enthusiastic. I only knew two of them personally and they commended the experience as one of the best in their lives.

(Photo: Supporters of the French Paralympic Cycling Team leading us in singing La Marseillaise on a shuttle bus)

Olympic Essentials

Dress and pack for the weather, including the weather predicted throughout the day. You'll be outdoors for hours so think about a hat and sunscreen. Take a camera, but don't let it get between you and having fun.

Hello Security Kitty
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Hello Security Kitty
Source: Erin Mellor

Olympic Security

Security for the London 2012 Olympics was tight. On the day after London was awarded the Olympic Games, on the morning of July 7, 2005, London's transport network was attacked by suicide bombers, killing 52 people, and injuring around 700, many of those injuries were life changing.

Britain is a safe place to live, and the police are not routinely armed, yet during the Games there were six missile launchers placed around the city to shoot down any airborne attacks, air traffic was routed away from Olympic venues and the Royal Navy was deployed on the Thames. That seemed rather over the top, and people living near the missile sites were understandably unhappy.

Apart from obvious measures, such as not allowing knives, guns or weapons into stadiums, an airline-like approach was adopted, you could not take liquids into any stadiums and could be expected to go through an x-ray scanner and have a pat-down search. It was possible to take small backpacks into stadiums, but each was searched and sealed before entry.

I was amused to see a Japanese fan dressed as a giant Hello Kitty being asked to remove his giant Kitty head to be searched and bagged. I did move in to take a closer photo, but a cheery Games Maker stepped forward to ask me not to take pictures of security. They asked with such charm it seemed rude not to comply.

I was allowed to take my camera with a zoom lens in with me, but had to demonstrate it was a real camera by taking a picture. I took a snapshot of the security guard and showed it to him or her each time, and they chuckled at how bad the shots were, I was set up for taking pictures 100 yards away, not 10".

Team Japan Fan
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Team Japan Fan
Source: Erin Mellor

Eating & Drinking (and drugs) At Olympic Venues

The Olympics have sponsorship deals which mean that the food and drink available is overpriced and unpleasant. For the two hours of a football game, or four hours or so of a double header match, that's not a real problem, but for the cycling we'd be there all day.

Fortunately we were able to bring food into the venues, but not drink. We could bring empty plastic sports water bottles and at each venue there were free water fountains to refill them.

We took a picnic to Brands Hatch racing circuit, but were mindful that we'd have to carry it everywhere, and couldn't have cutlery, crockery, or liquids. That did mean no ice pack either, and the weather was very warm, so were were careful to pack picnic items that wouldn't spoil quickly, and would still taste good tepid.

I'd advise reading any information you get around what the rules are and making yourself some healthy food to take along. It's an exciting time and you may need to be up early, get home late and travel a lot. I certainly do that with far less risk of a tantrum or tears if I'm not jacked up on junk food. I'm guessing the same goes for children!

It was possible to take in medication if necessary, but only if necessary. I took my Mum to one football game (she had a blast) and she needed to take her insulin shots, she had plenty of advance warning so was able to take along a copy of her prescription and it wasn't a problem. A friend did have to bin a few loose painkillers from the bottom of her handbag as security wouldn't allow them in as they couldn't identify them.

Disabled Chinese Athlete
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Disabled Chinese Athlete
Source: Erin Mellor

A Lifelong Love Of The Olympics

As a child I'd watch any and every sport at the Olympics and then go out and try to recreate them. We climbed over school fences to use running tracks and jumping pits, raced our bikes around an old gravel pit, and even carefully laid a roll of toilet paper across the garden to use as a bar for gymnastics.

We fenced with branches and any time we could get to the sports center to swim, dive and play badminton we would. I was a mini sports nut. I wasn't much good at any of them, but it didn't stop me enjoying myself.

The Olympics give children an opportunity to see all sorts of sports thy may not otherwise see, and there may be one in there that they could be good at. Those of us in the Commonwealth get an extra bite of the cherry with the Commonwealth Games, which has netball and squash too.

Just like in the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics at home would be recreated as well as possible, but we did bike rather than ski jumping, and a curious biathlon with and running and basketball hoops. I don't recommend trying out the bobsleigh with a tea tray on the stairs, it results in tears.

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What's Your Olympic Experience? 39 comments

Diana Wenzel profile image

Diana Wenzel 20 months ago from Colorado

Would love to attend the Olympics. My friend and I once tried to get tickets and failed. No medals for us. Enjoyed reading about your success. One day I will have my Olympic experience, but until then, I will live vicariously through yours. :-)

ChristyZ 20 months ago

This sounds like such a great experience, I never thought about how tight security would be at events, good to know. I would love to see the Winter Olympics someday, I'm watching them on TV now wishing I was there!

Brite-Ideas profile image

Brite-Ideas 20 months ago from Toronto, Canada Level 1 Commenter

I haven't been to the Olympics, but I did get to go to Wimbledon in 1978 and watched Jimmy Connors :)

Erin Mellor profile image

Erin Mellor 20 months ago from Europe Hub Author

@Brite-Ideas: I had such a crush on Jimmy Connors, I'm decidedly jealous.

SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 20 months ago from Arkansas USA Level 5 Commenter

There's something mesmerizing even about watching the Olympics on TV. Being there would be really amazing. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

stereomike83 profile image

stereomike83 20 months ago from UK Level 1 Commenter

We put in for over 1000 on tickets in original ballot and got nothing but we're lucky enough to acquire tickets for two days of rowing and a couple of matches of hockey in the Olympic Park itself which was great as you could stick around and watch on big screens all day. Like you it was a lifetime dream. My proudest moment was being able to take my 12wk old son to one of the days rowing. I found the army guys doing security very friendly and even more so when I had a baby strapped to my front!

Erin Mellor profile image

Erin Mellor 20 months ago from Europe Hub Author

@stereomike83: That's a story he can tell to his children one day, how lovely.

PaigSr profile image

PaigSr 20 months ago from State of Confussion Level 2 Commenter

Lets go back a few years to 1980 and the Lake Placid Olympics. My dad and I went to see a couple hockey games. The first we were right in the front row and could almost touch the ice as we were in the first row. The one thing I wanted was a stuffed animal of the raccoon. Which I still have. And as a side note my dad was given these tickets.

Erin Mellor profile image

Erin Mellor 20 months ago from Europe Hub Author

@PaigSr: I'm more used to people taking octopus to hockey games than bringing raccoons home, but it sounds like you had fun. Well done to your Dad.

pawpaw911 20 months ago

Thanks for sharing your experience. Would love to have the chance some day. Congratulations on LOTD.

Faye Rutledge profile image

Faye Rutledge 20 months ago from Concord VA

I've never been. Thanks for writing about your adventures there. Congratulations on LotD!

tonyleather 20 months ago

Never had the slightest interest in watching the Olympic games, I am sorry to say. I would much rather work in my garden. Interesting lens, all the same!

Zeross4 profile image

Zeross4 20 months ago from Kentucky

I can tell you really love the Olympics, I've never been but I watch it on TV. Thanks for sharing this with us!

valerie212 20 months ago

very informative, so sad i have never been to the Olympics but i just might in the near future ;).

delia-delia profile image

delia-delia 20 months ago Level 2 Commenter

Congratulations on LOTD! What an interesting adventure! I don't know if I'd do well with that big of crowd....I'll watch it on TV

hosibinh 20 months ago

It is very helpful for me

AkosiRed profile image

AkosiRed 20 months ago

wonderful !!!

QuiltFinger profile image

QuiltFinger 20 months ago from Tennessee

Great primer on attending the Olympics. What an experience it must have been! Most surprising fact: having to pay with VISA! Congrats on LoTD!

anonymous 20 months ago

Great lens! I love the Olympics, can't wait for it to come round again!

Erin Mellor profile image

Erin Mellor 20 months ago from Europe Hub Author

@QuiltFinger: That was a bit of a pain, and I didn't want to apply for a new credit card just to get tickets. Luckily my bank card was Visa, but lots of people had to sign up for a credit card just to buy tickets.

Merrci profile image

Merrci 20 months ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

It sounds like such a wonderful experience. Love your photos of people from different countries. I enjoy watching on TV, especially the winter sports! Congrats on LotD!

esmonaco profile image

esmonaco 20 months ago from Lakewood New York

I'm glad you got to go to the Omympics, sounds like a chance in a lifetime. Your pictures are just outstanding!! Congratulations on LOTD!!!

Erin Mellor profile image

Erin Mellor 20 months ago from Europe Hub Author

@Merrci: I loved meeting the people from around the world, and they all seemed to be having a brilliant time.

sybil watson 20 months ago

I went to the 1984 Olympics when they were in Los Angeles. My dad got tickets to several different events and then took friends and family members to their favorites. It was so exciting to see the athletes and all the visitors from different countries. This is such an incredible page - thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and congratulations on your LOTD!

ElsieNew profile image

ElsieNew 20 months ago

Your lens is great! I would love to go to the Olympics and especially see ice skating.

JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

JoanieMRuppel54 20 months ago from Keller, Texas

We are kindred spirits - I could have written this lens! I attended 3 Olympiads so far; Los Angeles in1984, Atlanta in 1996, and Salt Lake City in 2002. The ticket process was the same but we were luckier than you as we received many events in the lottery system. I also had the exact same experience going through security where I was asked to put my camera down and move along - no pictures allowed at security. The Olympics are a wonderful way to have a worldly experience in your own country. The colors, pageantry, and of course the sport of it all! Go Team USA!

RinchenChodron 20 months ago

Very interesting experience you had.

anonymous 20 months ago

Terrific lens. Congratulations on getting LotD!

PriyabrataSingh 20 months ago

Olympic Experience !!! Sounds good, I have never been through any Olympic Experience but I won't miss a chance if I get once whatsoever $6. It is no less than watching final soccer match. Thanks for sharing such a great experience.... Many congratulation on getting the Lens Of The Day.....

Erin Mellor profile image

Erin Mellor 20 months ago from Europe Hub Author

@JoanieMRuppel54: Oh boy, I'm jealous. That sounds wonderful.

goldenrulecomics profile image

goldenrulecomics 20 months ago

Very cool. Thanks for sharing. If we had stayed in England we definitely would have gone, and my wife had signed up to be an interpreter so she may have even worked it. Instead, we moved back to the States and missed the fun.

favored profile image

favored 20 months ago from USA Level 3 Commenter

Just a viewer ... but my sister has been to one.

Lynn Klobuchar profile image

Lynn Klobuchar 20 months ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

I watch on TV but would love to go....

takkhisa profile image

takkhisa 19 months ago

It would be a great memorable experience for me if I have a chance just like what you have experienced. Thanks for sharing your delightful Olympic trip!

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 19 months ago

Sounds like a memorable assortment of experiences. I think it would be fabulous to attend any of the Olympics.

WriterJanis2 profile image

WriterJanis2 19 months ago

I have never been, although I do enjoy them on TV. What a wonderful experience for you to witness all of that action live and in person.

TreasuresBrenda profile image

TreasuresBrenda 19 months ago from Canada Level 1 Commenter

I haven't experienced the Olympics but I did go to the World Figure Skating Championships when they were held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I'll never forget that experience!

Ibidii 19 months ago

I wrote a couple of lenses about my Olympic Volunteering experience. I love watching the games on tv also. I didn't get to any sporting venues, but I did go to the Opening and Closing ceremonies in 2002 in Utah. Thank you for stopping by my - I'm the "Early American" Contributor on Squidoo - page. You can see my Olympic lenses by going to my profile page and go down the list of my lenses. There are two lenses about 2002. Great lens here! I bet it was fun!

Loretta L profile image

Loretta L 18 months ago from Chilterns, UK.

Wasn't it a wonderful experience. I was lucky enough to get tickets for the athletics, which was wonderful as I am a total Olympics nut - I even wrote a book of poetry about it, you can't get much crazier than that. The atmosphere was marvellous. And reading your lens has got me enthused all over again. I really enjoyed reading about your experience.

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