What It's Like Inside Olympic Park

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Some lucky people, however, don't need a ticket to visit the Orbit; in fact, they get their own fancy car and public escort to take them there.

I'm talking, of course, about Queen Elizabeth, who visited the Orbit on the day we were there. It's one of the few times that commoners will be able to see the Queen without having to line up for hours, so we were quite lucky to catch a photo and a wave from Her Majesty.


After the Orbit, the Queen went inside the Aquatics Pavilion, where she made a brief appearance. My in-laws were inside the Aquatics Pavilion at the time watching the swimming heats, and they said the atmosphere was amazing. We could hear the cheering and stamping from outside and could only imagine what it must be like inside!


All that noise reminded us of all the events we were missing, so we proceeded to Park Live, an area inside Olympic Park where up to 10,000 spectators could lay on the grass and watch events broadcast on a giant screen. We arrived just in time to see Chinese shooter Yi Siling win the first gold medal of the Games, in women's 10m air rifle. From time to time, BBC coverage would cut to live shots of the park, so my son took the opportunity to get behind the television cameras and appear on live TV.


By this time, the mid-day sun was burning our backs (even the sun decided to cooperate for London 2012), and once again, the extent of the organizers' planning was evident: Volunteers wandered around the park, offering spectators squirts of sun lotion, wet wipes and plastic sheets so they could sit on the grass.


Just beyond the big screens, at the edge of Olympic Park, was the Athlete's Village, home to over 14,000 athletes and officials. Even from a distance, we could see the national flags that athletes were draping from their balconies.


The world's biggest sporting event deserves the biggest and the best, and including the World's Biggest McDonald's restaurant, built especially for the games by Olympics sponsor McDonald's. It's over staffed by 500 of the best McDonald's employees from around the world and seats 1,500 customers. We had lunch there, and although we enjoyed trying local menu items (the Cadbury Gold Wispa McFlurry deserves a gold medal), we quickly discovered that they also had the world's longest lines.
Other major sponsors also had pavilions for visitors to explore and enjoy. Coca-Cola had a Pin Trading center, where pinheads and newbies alike could collect and trade pins. Their interactive BeatBox pavilion, where visitors could "play" the structure like an instrument and create their own Olympic soundtrack, was one of the most popular destinations in Olympic Park. Other sponsor pavilions included the Panasonic 3D Theatre, Acer Journey, Samsung Mobile Live PIN, and EDF Electricity Pavilion.


It would take the stamina of an Olympic marathoner to see everything in Olympic Park in a single day, but we simply had to take home souvenirs of our once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we made it a point to stop by the Olympics Megastore on our way out of Olympic Park. Apparently everyone visiting Olympic Park had the same opinion, because the lines to enter the store were as long as the lines to get into the park. While there are Olympics stores and kiosks scattered throughout London, the Megastore stocks the biggest range of London 2012 memorabilia in the UK, including merchandise that's only available at official Olympics venues.

We emerged from the Megastore and Olympic Park with a generous assortment of Olympic pins, shirts and other tchotchkes. I know I'll be cursing my bank balance when I get back to the US, but what's a few quid compared to photos of the Queen and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime day at Olympic Park?

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Read more about Bonggamom's Olympic adventures on her personal blog, Finding Bonggamom, and view more photos of the Olympic Park on Bonggamom's Olympics Flickr set.

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