London 2012: My Olympics Experience

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If you had asked me a year ago what I thought my first trip to London would consist of, I probably would have answered with “the usual touristy stuff.”

You know, Big Ben, the River Thames, the British Museum, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge… All the “must see” things that London has to offer.

I probably would never have answered with “seeing the Olympics.”

London 2012 Olympics

But, as it turned out, my first trip to London was completely different than what I was expecting it to be. Instead of cruising the Thames at night, I spent time watching the Opening Ceremonies from a London flat where we could see and hear the fireworks. Instead of visiting museums, I ended up hanging out with other travel bloggers at Olympic team houses.

London 2012 Olympics

And, instead of simply watching the Olympics on television, I got to see them live in person.

London 2012 Olympics

I got to experience London in perhaps one of the most unique ways imaginable. I was there when the city was absolutely electric with an energy and spirit that can only go hand-in-hand with an international event like the Olympic Games.

I was in London when the city came alive.

London 2012 Olympics

London 2012 Olympics

I've heard conflicting opinions of London before — people have said it's big and loud, boring and unfriendly. “Grey” is often how I've pictured this world capital.

But London was anything but in the 6 days that I spent there.

London 2012 Olympics
Tower Bridge light show

London 2012 Olympics

The streets were packed with people from all over the world, dressed in colors to support their countries and athletes. Colorful pink signs and purple-clad volunteers adorned street corners and Tube stations to help event-goers find their way. And, everywhere, people were smiling.

London 2012 Olympics

London 2012 Olympics

I don't think I could have chosen a better time to visit London, even if I never got in all the “typical” sightseeing.

To me, I saw London at its best.

London 2012 Olympics

A bucket list dream come true

You hear lots of people talking about dreams and bucket list items. Among travelers, these lists usually consist of things like summiting Kilimanjaro or exploring Laos on a motorbike or riding the Trans-Siberian railway.

For me, though, one of my top bucket list items has always been “Seeing gymnastics live at the Olympics.”

London 2012 Olympics

After devoting countless hours and plenty of blood, sweat, and tears to the sport myself for 8 years, Olympic gymnastics has always been the event I most look forward to at the Summer Games. And it's always been the only sport I've ever wanted to see live.

It wasn't an item I thought I would be crossing off my bucket list in my 20s, though. Maybe not even in my 30s. I figured I would have to wait until the Summer Games came back to American soil before I'd have any prayer of getting a ticket and being able to afford to go.

So imagine how surreal it was for me to step into London's North Greenwich Arena on July 29, ready to see some Olympic gymnastics happening live in front of me.

London 2012 Olympics
The O2

London 2012 Olympics

London 2012 Olympics

It wasn't the team final, the individual all-around, or even an event final. The only ticket I could get was for a qualifying round of women's gymnastics. But it didn't matter. It didn't matter that I wasn't seeing any medals handed out. It didn't even matter that I wouldn't even be seeing Team USA compete. It was enough for me to just be there.

London 2012 Olympics
Uneven bars
London 2012 Olympics
Floor exercise

London 2012 Olympics

London 2012 Olympics
Flying Swiss gymnast!
London 2012 Olympics

London 2012 Olympics

London 2012 Olympics
Balance beam

That's how I felt about being in London for the 2012 Olympics overall — it was great to just be there.

I felt like I was a part of something. Something big.

And that's really the whole point of the Olympics, isn't it? To bring the world together for 16 days of friendly competition and good spirits.

I know I'll never forget my first Olympics experience. Thanks, London, for showing me a great time!

What sort of London 2012 experience did YOU have? Would you ever want to go to the Olympic Games?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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72 Comments on “London 2012: My Olympics Experience

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  1. […] loosened up and become more open to adventure, I never would have kissed that boy in a bar or gone to the Olympics or jumped into a river in Scotland on New Year’s Day. And what a shame that would have […]

    What was the secret to snagging tickets? I know I have time but my mom & I are planning on make it to see figure skating in South Korea in 2018 and I’d love any tips or Olympics secrets you may have learned.

      It totally depends where you live, and how your country’s Olympic committee sells tickets. In my case, I live in the US, and a company called CoSport handles sales of Olympics tickets (or, at least they did in 2012). About a year before the Olympics, I signed up for alerts from CoSport and told them which events I was interested in. I didn’t get tickets in the first round of sales (because it was basically a lottery). But, closer to the actual Games, they usually still have tickets to sell and/or more tickets get released to countries based on demand. I got alerts saying there would be more gymnastics tickets available on such-and-such a day and that they would go on sale at a specific time – so I made sure I was online and ready to buy right at that time!

    I was also at the London games and had a gymnastic event as well – floor/rings/beam individual finals. London is such a great city but during the Olympics, it was such a fun place to visit. I had the best time. Everyone should visit London plus hit up an Olympics! 🙂

      Oh awesome! I had a ticket to a women’s qualifying round. Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be the round the US women were competing in, but it was still amazing regardless! I agree that London during the Olympics was just FUN.

    I was in London at that time too!
    Really enjoying your blog!

      Thanks, Carlos! Hope you enjoyed London during the Olympics, too!

    […] through Camden Market, and get geeky at Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross. (Not to mention going to the Olympics this […]

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