The bronze medal winners are…
Signage is a broad category including all signage pertaining to trains, venues, queues, venues sections/seating, etc. At the beginning of our Olympic Extravaganza, I mentally awarded signage a gold medal but over the course of the Olympics, signage went from being awarded a gold to a silver to a cubic zirconia and finally settles at bronze.
My biggest gripe about signage was the lack of directional signage for the Javelin train. As mentioned before, the Javelin train (high-speed, above ground train) was specifically built for the Olympics. It connects St. Pancras International station to Stratford International station. To get to St. Pancras International, we took the Tube and alighted at King’s Cross-St. Pancras station.
As soon as we got off the train, we looked around the platform for a fluorescent pink Olympic sign directing us to the Javelin train. No sign existed. In fact, the Tube maps inside the trains didn’t have King’s Cross-St. Pancras station marked as an Olympic transit station (Tube stations that were close to venues were labeled with a pink fluorescent sticker citing the venue name). The missing notation on the Tube map and the non-existent signage at King’s Cross-St. Pancras made me question if I had my facts wrong.
Did the Javelin train not depart from Kings Cross-St. Pancras? Did they fail to complete the Javelin rail line and therefore, there is no Javelin train?
Confused and pressed for time, Peter and I threw in the towel and boarded the next Tube to Olympic Park. We decided that we would take the Javelin train back to St. Pancras station after our diving session, if we could find it.
We did find the Javelin train on our return journey and it was magnificent. Once we got to Kings Cross-St. Pancras, we noted the Javelin train platforms and planned to take it back to Olympic Park for our basketball event. Two days later, we went on our Javelin Train Scavenger Hunt at King’s Cross-St. Pancras station and we found the signage but it was outside of the Tube station. We had to completely exit the Tube station and walk toward St. Pancras station before we saw the first sign directing us to the Javelin train.
I do not understand why there were no signs inside the station or on the maps inside the trains. I knew about the Javelin train and I couldn’t find it on the first try, costing us 45 minutes of valuable time.
How could people who didn’t know about it find it and save themselves precious time getting to/from Olympic Park? The answer is that they couldn’t – they were stuck taking the Tube.
The next area for signage improvement was at the Ticket Box Office. The Ticket Box Office is kind of a misleading name because the only thing you could do at the Ticket Box Office was collect tickets that were previously purchased online. You couldn’t buy tickets, you couldn’t return tickets and you couldn’t resolve ticket issues.
It was Will Call and will call only.
The Ticket Box Office was always kind of hidden too. At Horse Guards Parade, it was literally buried in a cluster of trees. There were no signs to the Ticket Box Office and more importantly, no signs letting everyone know where the queue to the Ticket Box Office began. There was always confusion at the Ticket Box Office. Always. Probably in part because of its misleading name!
There were other more minor irritations with signage. For example, on the exterior of Horse Guards Parade were enormous signs indicating section numbers and which direction to walk to get to those sections. These signs were very helpful until we got tickets in section 108, a section that was not listed on any of the giant signs. Unfortunately, I forgot to get a photo but the giant sign listed sections 101-107 (with an arrow pointing to the left) and sections 109-114 (with an arrow pointing to the right). Did section 108 not exist? It did but the entrance was around the side of the stadium in an odd spot.
Another minor irritation was at the entrance to Horse Guards Parade. When walking to the venue from Piccadilly Circus station, we had to descend down a large and very wide staircase. To ensure pedestrian traffic kept flowing, the Games Makers directed everyone to one side when entering and the other side when exiting. Signs indicating “Entrance” and “Exit” would have been very helpful because there were always groups of people trying to enter via the exit which caused a small amount of chaos in the entrance/exit area.
Signs at Olympic Park were awful, primarily because they weren’t plentiful and with so many people wandering about, cameras in hand, it was difficult to watch where we were going and keep an eye out for the rare directional sign. In fact, there was one sign which indicated that the Aquatics Centre was “this way” and we followed the sign only to find out that it was the entrance to the Aquatics Centre for Games Makers only.
Ticket Box Office
The queues, the wait, the confusion, the angry and frustrated people. Ugh. There are two reasons why the Ticket Box Office gets a bronze medal versus a cubic zirconia.
- Tickets purchased online could be collected at the Ticket Box Office at any venue because they were printed when you collected them. A smart way of doing business, I must say. This meant that if I bought diving and beach volleyball tickets online the night before, I didn’t have to go to Olympic Park to collect the diving tickets and Horse Guards Parade to collect the beach volleyball tickets. I could collect all the tickets at one Ticket Box Office (aka Will Call).
- The queues and chaos at the Ticket Box Office was a by-product of LOCOG re-releasing tickets and therefore, isn’t necessarily the Ticket Box Office’s fault. Re-released tickets were typically for sessions that day or the following day which meant mailing the tickets was not an option. Therefore, the only way to collect the tickets was via the Ticket Box Office and they did not ramp-up staff at the Ticket Box Office to handle the increase in ticket collection due to re-released tickets. The staff at the Ticket Box Office would have been more than sufficient had LOCOG not re-released tickets (which I don’t think they had any intention of doing at the beginning of the Olympics).
On average, we queued for an hour to collect tickets every time. The queues were not well-defined or clearly marked. Randomly, a Games Maker would make the entire queue move back about a half of a block for no apparent reason. People failed to have the correct supporting documentation (ID and purchase confirmation) causing delays. Games Makers tried to man the queues but only added to the confusion.
Had there been a little more signage and organization (e.g. a Games Maker verifying people had the correct supporting documents prior to getting into the queue), it would have been a manageable task.