Absorbing the cultural significance of the Olympic Games is a natural outcome of visiting the host country, live and in person. The 2012 London Games has allowed the world to experience elite sport competition in state of the art venues situated among the backdrop of royal palaces, historic museums, magnificent arches, and other architectural marvels.
Typically, a majority of the competition venues, the Olympic Village, and country-specific hospitality headquarters such as Holland's Heineken House are within a 20-mile radius of the city center. A few venues such as the the famous Wimbledon courts, sailing routes, or qualifying round soccer stadiums are a bit father. Thus far, the 2012 Olympics have been full of moments of glory, moments of disappointment, emotions galore, royal celebrity sightings, and a pretty funny scandal with badminton that has disgraced the spirit of the Games.
The London Organizing Committee has done an admirable job with signage to assist groups such as the Tiffin University Olympic Academic Experience to easily navigate routes and judge travel time. If someone were to be left behind on a departing train platform, traveling mates can assume the lost soul will show up approximately five minutes later than the original group stop time at the pre-determined destination. Similarly, if someone isn't fully paying attention and fails to exit a train at the designated station, the travel group has relative confidence that the forgotten passenger will figure out the proper transfer routes and will eventually catch up.
Unlike Athens and Beijing, London's underground tube system is fantastically easy. Travelers need little prep time to determine which correct line to jump on to make it to an Olympic venue or tourist destination.
Rio should take note to London's logistical coordination of color schemes for signs and volunteers and venue information. The deep purple and bright magenta uniforms and signs have become trusted entities to assist fans and Olympians with any type of Olympic information. The London Organizing Committee has magnificently calculated crowd control as well in a location where prim and proper order is an expectation, not an exception.
Typically, a train passenger checks his or her travel ticket when both entering and departing a station, but in certain cases, turn-styles have remained open for easy exiting. Queue lines are everywhere and minding the queue is the only option. Holding back a sea of spectators before allowing individuals to join a queue is a technique that assisted the orderly exit exit for the record crowd of more than 70,000 who witnessed Team GB (Great Britain) upset Brazil's women's team at Wembley Stadium. The underground tube is tremendously overcrowded for Olympic venue routes such as the Main Stadium, but otherwise, there is plenty of room when riding the train to visit London's popular cultural destinations such as the Royal Opera House, British Museum, or Hard Rock Cafe' near Hyde Park. Travel tickets are even valid on the fun double-decker buses that are popular for sight-seeing.
By far, Wimbledon has been the most welcoming Olympic venue, although, many of the concessions still ran out of food by the start of the evening sessions. (Perhaps two rain delays didn't help). Many of Britain's famous Fuller Pubs have also run out of food or chose to temporarily stop serving food in order to catch up with a largely drinking crowd enjoying televised coverage of the Games.
At Wimbledon, the beer prices were much cheaper than other Olympic venues, rarely were there queue lines for restrooms, and patrons could use Visa instead of cash only to purchase the expensive concessions such as the ever-so common fish and chips or the infamous strawberries and cream dessert. A Center Court ticket guaranteed a seat for the top-highlighted matches of the day, but also allowed patrons to take general seating at any of the other 18 courts. Members of the TU contingency had fantastic guaranteed seats on Court One to watch Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova's matches, but life got just a bit better, however, when front row seats were open on court two for a double-set tie-breaker match featuring Venus Williams.
The fortune of sharing a bird's-eye view from Olympic host cities such as London, Beijing and Athens is a reminder of how connected the world has become, thanks to digital technology. London is great, but a break to visit Paris for a few days via a super bullet train allows time to catch up on writing and escape the exhausting hectic pace of stalking Olympic venues and athletes. Only a few days will remain on the TU Olympic Academic Experience when returning to the host city, but no doubt there will still be plenty of stories to share with Tiffin Ohio and surrounding communities.
Stay tune for more Olympic reports from London either through columns in the Advertiser-Tribune or periodic live/recorded interviews available at www.senecacountyradio(dot)com.