diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 05, 2012

I didn't go to the Olympics yesterday.
Withdrawal symptoms have set in.
To fill the gap, let me try to answer some of your questions.

Olympic Park Q&A

Do you really need 2 hours to get through security?
No, that's a myth circulated to try to equalise the spread of visitors through security checkpoints. I've now been to seven different events, some in the Olympic Park, some elsewhere, and never once had to queue. You might be in unlucky in arriving at the same time as everyone else and get to wait, but there are so many scanning tents that security normally takes 2 minutes rather than 2 hours.

Would it be quicker to get off at Stratford or Leyton (or indeed West Ham) for the hockey?
Not West Ham, that's at least a 40 minute walk to the top of the Park. The walk from Leyton is signed but very quiet, so quiet that the pop-up market along the way is haemorrhaging money. Expect about 20 minutes to the Eton Manor Gate, then another 10 to the hockey stadium, which is about the same total as from Stratford. Assuming you're not arriving at the Park at a busy time, and purely because the walk's much more interesting, I'd suggest Stratford. But if you want a guaranteed arrival time, choose Leyton.

I was surprised by how quiet and poorly signposted the walk from Hackney Wick station to Victoria Gate was.
That's because they'd rather you didn't travel this way. But if you know where you're going then the Victoria Gate has the very shortest queues of all (and 50 bored Games Makers with almost nothing to do). It's quite a trek into the Olympic Park, especially starting from the cycle racks in Victoria Park, but I enjoyed entering this way.

Any suggestions as to when we need to arrive to be seated in good time?
Best arrive too early rather than too late. The warm-up within each venue tends to begin about 30 minutes before the session starts. Around 20 minutes before each session they outline the rules of the sport you're about to see. Miss that and you may be in the dark if yours is one of the lesser known events. There is absolutely no point in being in your seat more than 40 minutes early, whatever your spectator guide says.

Any suggestions as to when we need to arrive to be seated in good time?
I've seen rather too many people wandering into events late because they underestimated how long it would take to reach their venue. The Park is bigger than you expect. In brief...
» Stratford station to Stratford Gate - 5 minutes (and, on a good day, another 5 through security)
» West Ham station to Greenway Gate - 20 minutes (including security)
» Stratford/Greenway Gate to the Orbit/Aquatic Centre/Stadium (bridges A and B) - 5 minutes
» Stratford/Greenway Gate to the Spotty Bridge/Stadium (bridges D and E) - 10 minutes
» Stratford/Greenway Gate to the Copper Box - 15 minutes
» Stratford/Greenway Gate to the Basketball Arena/Velodrome/Riverbank Arena - 20 minutes

That's walking fast. If there are crowds, or you're walking slower, expect longer.

Do you know if Day Passes are really available to the Park?
Sorry, no. There were never very many Day Passes on sale, and to get one you had to be online back at the end of May. If you were reading this blog at the time, I did point this out. LOCOG aren't allowing Day Passes during the second week of the Games because there are already two hundred thousand spectators in the Park and they can't cope with more. Your best bet for getting inside the Park is to try to buy a Paralympic ticket. Again, the best time to do this was last year, but all is not lost if you go looking now.

Do you have any info about the current situation re the selling of 'recycled' tickets for £5 at box offices inside the Park?
There were a few earlier in the week, sold from an orange booth near the Velodrome, as people (inexplicably) left the basketball and hockey before the second match in their session began. But the queues for those resale tickets were ridiculously long, and those waiting were probably wasting their precious hours inside the Olympic Park with very little hope of success. I understand no such system will be running in Week Two. Blame LOCOG for the resales debacle. They entered the Games period with absolutely no coherent ticketing strategy for filling empty seats, hence the seats stay empty.

Any hints on where to fill up water bottles?
There are lots of places to fill up water bottles, generally anywhere there's a cluster of toilets. If you're unsure, ask a Games Maker, they'll direct you. Annoyingly the official Olympic Park map doesn't include toilets, even though they're in relatively few locations. Two good spots are near the Orbit, another two are outside the Basketball Arena. Water fountains always come in threes, although most people only use the central tap rather than the two low-squirters to either side. As a general rule, there are fewer water fountains within the venues than there are in the main body of the Park, so fill up before you enter.

Have you found anywhere worth buying lunch from, or should I just bring my own?
Depends what you mean by a decent lunch. Personally I think the food's underwhelming and overpriced, but I appear to be in the minority. I'd bring a packed lunch (minus liquids), and then if you find something better you can always eat that instead.

How do you get to use the mobility buggies?
Just ask. The volunteers are only too willing to help you out, and they'll transport you from the gates, to the gates, to the venues, whatever. The departure points are marked on the map, and there's at least one buggy park in each quarter of the Park. Just make sure you arrive at Stratford, not West Ham.

It says that for the closing ceremony gates open at 5.30. Does that mean we cannot go into the park anywhere for a wander round before then?
The only events in the Olympic Park on Sunday 12th August are the Water Polo finals, the Handball finals and the Closing Ceremony. Sporting spectators will be ushered out after their afternoon sessions, leaving a restricted corner of the Olympic Park for Closing Ceremony attendees. You'll be able to mill around the Orbit and enjoy the 2012 Gardens, but you won't get access to the northern parklands.

Is the Javelin a viable escape route?
Probably yes, unless you're leaving the Park late in the day. The Javelin can only cope with a few thousand people an hour, which means long queues outside when more than that turn up. Stratford International DLR is an excellent escape route, though it won't take you into town. If you can get inside Stratford station, the regular Greater Anglia trains to Liverpool Street will almost certainly have seats. And there's always West Ham, which has been remodelled to withstand crowds that haven't materialised, so (if you don't mind a long walk out) head there for an easy choice of District/H&C/c2c/Jubilee.

What's the best way to get tickets?
Request them 15 months ago, like the rest of us did. Sorry.

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