Features, Travel

SHE Canada’s “How to…” survive London during the Olympics

By Priya Kumar As many of you now know, I spent the past week basking the London 2012 Olympic glow. Being in the Games' host city brought with it an array of exciting experiences and anecdotes. Now having returned to Toronto, I'm going to share the top three things one requires to survive London during the Olympics;

Hyde Park Main Stage-- Free to the Public. We saw Brit band McFly perform!

1.) Remember...Google is your friend Did you know that most events taking place during the Olympics cost nothing at all to attend? Well, this is the case-- Hyde Park has daily screenings of the various competitions on 5 movie theater-sized screens with the main stage playing host to a variety of in-person athlete interviews, performances and musicians. There are also countless activities for kids, a fully stocked beer garden and the delightful Cadbury house to amuse the masses for hours on end. Without my O2 powered smart phone I would not have known this either; Road Races and the Marathons do not require tickets. If you happen to be checking out Pall Mall and the Palace you will note that the roads are blocked off for various sports. Given how difficult it was to win that silly ticket lottery for seats, this is a way to see your favorite sports live. Finally, to assist in all this Googling you will be doing, there is free wi-fi pretty much everywhere in London during the Olympics. Best time saver ever.

Olympic Silver Medalist Darcy Marquardt (rowing) at Canada House in Trafalgar Square-- Go TEAM CANADA!

2.) Make use of any and all connections you might have in London After meeting a close friend from undergrad for a casual Sunday brunch, I discovered she worked for the Canadian Embassy. Long story short, she invited me to a party at Canada House in Trafalgar Square hosted by the Mayor of Vancouver for the Canadian medal-winners. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience to chat with these elite athletes about their journeys to the most significant competition of their respective sports. Speaking of connections, don't count out anyone you know in the corporate world. Companies like Barclay's, Boston Consulting Group, Visa and countless others have blocks of literally hundreds of tickets reserved for their employees. Just inquire about ticket availability and then owe your Fortune 500 buddy a favor for life! That being said, I found my ticket to the Artistic Gymnastic All-Around Final (TEAM GABBY!) on Craigslist. Use every avenue available to get your hands on those coveted tickets.

The view from my hostess' flat off Abbey Road. So much to see, so little time!

3.) Don't forget to discover something new! London is a city full of secrets. Unlike other metropolises, it is teeming with places off the beaten track like pop-up stores and cafes. This was my umpteenth trip to London, so by this point I assumed I'd seen it all. WRONG. Not only did I stay right off Abbey Road, where the Beatles infamously recorded their final album together, but I also discovered the whole neighborhood of St. John's Wood. Little America is what it's known as by locals-- and many expats call the quaint district home. Finally, if you're tired of the overpriced vintage hotspots on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, it's time to rediscover Shoreditch by day. Still the epicenter of young London nightlife, it now boasts some of the freshest boutiques, blowout bars and cafes the city has ever seen. It was also a welcome escape from the hoards Olympic spectators trying to navigate their way around London. All in all, the London 2012 was a blast. It's difficult to watch the competitions on TV now knowing I was there to experience the heat first hand. The insanity at Heathrow, over priced food, the crowds on the street and on the Tube was worth every second of being able to experience the Olympic Games in person.

The Olympic rings were everywhere! But looked best on Tower Bridge

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