I'm a freelance writer based in South West London, but i'm frequently travelling. Stay tuned! I pop up in the strangest places.
Olympics for free
For those of us 'poor people' who are unable to get a ticket to the Olympic stadiums, (or simply can't face selling our houses to buy one) London BT have arranged for a compensation of sorts, in the form of Hyde Park and Victoria Park Olympic screen parks, well, yes.
A good friend of my mothers', a lovely, crazy, 'Richard Branson' look-alike German man called Guenther, decided to stay with us throughout the Olympics and tried to get us all some tickets. However, when that proved to be much more difficult than previously thought, he went online and found us tickets to Hyde Park London Live instead. However, due to some confusing information on the internet, he ended up paying £20 for 4 tickets despite the conflicting info stating that the entrance to the park was free.
We arrived at the venue and found at the entrance, that indeed it was free to enter. Okay. We tried to get a refund for the money we'd paid online, but the officials told us that it was impossible to refund the money as it was bought to guarantee entry - this was a half empty venue with very small queues to get in - sure we needed a guarantee entry. However, once we entered, we were not allowed to re enter if we left.
So we went in, and I was immediately struck by the space and the sheer volume of Cadbury, Hamburger, and Bar stalls that circled the entire park. The ground was covered in cork and bark pieces which stick in your legs and bum when you sit down on it (you had to use a jacket as padding because the grass was completely stripped away) and 6 HUGE screens each showing a different sport. Guenther found it a challenge because he was torn between wanting to watch the women's handball on Screen 3, at the entrance to the park, and the weight lifting on Screen 4, which was at the other end. He looked like a cartoon whipping his head from side to side trying to decide which one he wanted to watch! My mother made the decision for us. We were to watch the cycling time trial races on Screen 1. No arguments, even if we wanted to - we slow jogged over to the large area where people had already staked their claim on a square metre of ground, and sat right in the middle of the crowd. We were just in time to watch the race start on the main screen. Guenther and I took out our German and Australian flags, whereas my mother put on her Union Jack hat, we bought some Cadbury's ice creams, and cheered Bradley Wiggins on. We later bought a couple of £4.50 Heineken beers. It was great fun and the crowd really got into it and without exception, everyone was screaming support for Team GB (our flags got swamped by the red, white and blue surrounding us).
The sun made a surprise appearance, and we all began to get baked pink, but not to worry, there was a pharmacy stall nearby selling sunscreen which helped stay in place to see 'Wiggo' bag the Gold! It became too hot in the direct sunlight, so we moved to the back of the park where there was a shaded cocktail bar and entertainment area which also had a few smaller screens, and settled in for the rest of the afternoon. We ate sushi, noodles and chocolate, while we watched the weightlifting, swimming, archery and tennis. A troop of bands came around and played a few songs for the supporters and people got up and danced. For a free venue, it was not a bad deal.
The crowds were very enthusiastic, loud and slightly batty, but everyone was having a great time cheering on the athletes for Team GB, wearing Union Jack flags as capes, dresses and head dresses. There were loads of games and sports spread out around the park that children were able to play with, including some swing tennis, walk on water balls floating in a large pool, and trampolines, so they were all very well entertained while their parents were engrossed watching the games.
If you have any time this week, it's well worth your time and especially a good way for you and your family to get involved in the Olympics, especially if you're unable to get tickets. Word of advice though, thoroughly check the website, but don't be fooled, you can get in for free.