My London 2012 Olympic experience was amazing and throughout the Olympic festivities, I received many emails asking questions about behind-the-scenes stuff.
Example: Is The Tube handling the increase in passenger traffic or has there been a complete meltdown?
It is because of these questions that I’ve decided to host my very own London 2012 medal ceremony! There are four medals in my medal ceremony: Gold, silver, bronze, and cubic zirconia and they will be awarded in reverse medal order (best to worst).
First up, the gold medal winners.
The London 2012 volunteers are called Games Makers because they “help make the Games happen”. Out of 240,000 applicants, 70,000 people had the honor of being a Games Maker. Throughout the Games, I regretted not having applied to be a Games Maker but I had to remind myself that if I was busy helping make the Games happen, I couldn’t be watching the Games happen.
One of my favorite things about the Games Makers kit were their shoes.
There was no shortage of Games Makers. Any time you had a question, a Games Maker was there to answer it. In fact, they often times answered questions before they were asked. For example, when intoxicated people stumbled out of their seats and up the aisle in need of a toilet, the Games Maker would just point and smile. Then they would remind the drunk people that they needed their ticket to get back to their seat and the drunk people would rush back to their seat to retrieve their ticket before running off to the loo.
Games Makers not only provided verbal direction and answers but they also provided physical assistance to spectators. On more than one occasion, I witnessed a Games Maker holding a tray of beers while the beer-owning spectator searched for their ticket or opened their umbrella.
This Games Maker rocked:
Games Makers constantly went above and beyond their games-making responsibilities. When spectators would stand in their seats for extended periods of time, the Games Makers would ask them to sit down. When spectators tried to enter a section of the venue that was not the section on their ticket, the Games Maker would direct them to the correct section. When spectators would stand in the aisles or at the top of the stairs, the Games Maker would gently nudge them along to their seats.
And here’s a confession: I got a little teary-eyed when they were officially thanked during the London 2012 closing ceremony. They deserved it.
Airport-style security was at all venues. While liquids over 100 ml were not allowed, you were allowed to bring in empty water bottles and fill them at the water stations inside the venues. Belts had to be removed but shoes could stay on. You know, airport security basics. Thousands and thousands of people went through security at every event we attended and we never waited in line for more than five minutes.
The queues were organized with Games Makers directing spectators into specific queues to ensure the queue load was spread evenly across all security gates. Games Makers also manned the stack of grey bins, putting them on the belt for you and removing them as soon as you took your belongings.
This may sound minor but having the bin placed on the belt for us sped up the process. By the time we reached the metal detector, we had removed our belts and taken everything out of our pockets. Having to grab a grey bin with all the other stuff in our hands would have slowed the process.
I drank a lot of beer during our Olympic festivities which meant I went to the toilet frequently. The toilet configuration was slightly different at every venue but all toilets were clean and well-kept.
Permanent venues like The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club and The O2 had long queues and could not handle the toilet traffic and I waited in line for about five minutes each time I had to go to the toilet at those venues.
Temporary venues like Eton Dorney and Horse Guards Parade had toilet facilities that were in large mobile home type structures. I’ll refer to them as toilet pods. In each toilet pod, there were 20 stalls, 16 sinks, and 8 hand dryers. The hand dryers were like jet engines and they also doubled as hair and clothes dryers when it rained. I never waited in line at any of the toilets at temporary venues.
Hands down, the temporary toilets won the battle of the toilets.
The grounds at every venue were clean. Games Makers were always walking around, picking up litter, emptying the rubbish bins, and in general, keeping things tidy. One feature that I did not expect to see was Sport Court flooring on top of grass/fields. Sport Court is plastic flooring that venues use to create instant basketball, volleyball and other sports courts.
Sport Court can also be used on top of grass and dirt to create a hard surface. Due to the frequent rain showers in England, the Sport Court protected the grass and field areas and when the rain fell, it fell onto and through the Sport Court to Earth. The Sport Court provided a smooth walking surface for spectators but also prevented the grass and fields from turning into a mud pit. Brilliant idea, London 2012. Simply, brilliant.
Clean, clean, clean. I am still amazed at how clean the venues and grounds were given the amount of foot traffic and drunk people who roamed the venues all day long.
For example, beach volleyball. Two sessions of beach volleyball were held each day. Early on, there were four matches per session and there was about a two-hour break between sessions.
Everyone had to exit the venue after the first session even if you had tickets to the second session. This was not only for security reasons (they didn’t want people from the afternoon session lurking around during the evening session) but also because the Game Makers cleaned the entire stadium during that two-hour period.
I know. This is shocking.
It’s true. Transportation deserves a gold medal. I thought The Tube was going to meltdown and traffic was going to come to a standstill. I thought Peter and I would be smashed inside the tiny Tube carriages, smelling body odor from around the world but that was not the case. In fact, we were able to sit down on 95 percent of our Tube journeys.
The picture below was taken on the northbound platform of the Bakerloo line at the Piccadilly Circus Underground station immediately following a beach volleyball session. Not only is there a lack of people but there is a guy with a suitcase which means he was not a spectator at beach volleyball. I’ve never seen a Tube station so empty before in my life!
So, why so few people?
First, in the weeks prior to the Games, I talked with several people while walking Dexter who all told me that employers in London had urged employees to work from home during the Games, to help lessen the load on The Tube.
Second, I believe people were scared to ride The Tube. Why? It could have been that they were intimidated by the vastness of The Tube or they were scared of a terrorist attack. When I waited in line to pick-up our tickets on opening ceremony day, I heard multiple people talking about how they walked over a mile to get there. When I asked why they didn’t take The Tube, they just kind of shook their heads as though they didn’t want to be bothered to figure it out when they could just walk.
Even though transportation gets a gold medal, it still had hiccups here and there. For example, The Tube station leaving Wimbledon was packed and when the train arrived, everyone pushed to get on the train. Once we were on the train and the doors were closed, the conductor announced that there was another train right behind our train. This information would have been far more helpful had it been announced prior to the first train arriving or even at the time the first train arrived. Instead, we all piled onto the first train only to find out that the train behind our train was empty.
Another example, which I mentioned in a previous post was the train debacle leaving The O2 and the final example occurred at Paddington station around midnight one night. Several trains bound for The West (Slough, Maidenhead, Reading, and Oxford) were delayed and/or canceled. The station was packed and everyone at the station wanted to be on the next westbound train.
When they opened the platform and train for boarding, the crowd ran to the train as though we were trying to get into Walmart on Black Friday. Peter and I were fortunate to be ahead of the crowd but it was like a wave of people running down the platform. Once we arrived at the train, I noticed that they tripled the number of coaches on the train from three to nine to handle the mass of people. Nice work, First Great Western!
The final bit I want to note about transportation is that a high-speed train between St. Pancras International station and Stratford International station was built specifically for the Games to transport people from central to east London (Olympic Park) in six minutes. The train is awesome but the problem with the train is that there were no Javelin train signs within the King’s Cross-St. Pancras Tube station. So, unless you had read about the Javelin train, you would never have known it existed. And since so few people had read about it, it was always empty and really enjoyable!