Visit London Blog » olympics Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 2012 Team Highlights Fri, 28 Dec 2012 09:00:38 +0000 The London 2012 Olympic rings on Tower Bridge

The London 2012 Olympic rings on Tower Bridge

What a year it’s been for London. As well as hosting the biggest sporting event in the world the city has celebrated the Queen’s 60th year on the throne, marked Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, re-opened the world’s last remaining tea clipper and played a big part in the World Shakespeare Festival. There are almost too many good bits to cram into one blog post, but here are some of the Visit London blog team’s 2012 highlights:


“It’s possibly been London’s best year since the Romans decided to build a crossing over the Thames. Highlights have included the 100m-high photo of the Royal Family on Sea Container’s House to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the completion of the Overground line making it easier to zip around London from south of the river and perhaps most memorable of all, seeing the Olympic Rings hanging from Tower Bridge. I’m sure the Romans would have approved.”
Tom Butler


“In 2012 I enjoyed flying through the sky on the Emirates Air Line, visiting the beautifully refurbished Cutty Sark and fell madly in love with the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I had a great day out at Mudchute City Farm in the summer and met some splendid sheep and a grumpy rabbit. My favourite theatre show of the year was The Ladykillers with Peter Capaldi and I’m still excited about visiting The Who Shop.
I’ve watched people celebrating public events in The Mall on television so many times but the athletes’ parade was the first time I’ve ever joined the crowds in the street to cheer. It was an absolutely perfect afternoon, the perfect end to a wonderful London 2012 games and a London moment I’ll never forget.”


“My 2012 highlights include seeing the Royal Ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardee with my mum (visiting from Australia) at the always impressive Royal Opera House. Finally seeing Wicked, and having second-row seats that meant I could bask in the full glory of the amazing costumes. And rocking out to Cold Chisel, Iggy Pop & The Stooges and Soundgarden in Hyde Park.
Closer to home, it was a real buzz to see Grayson Perry’s Walthamstow Tapestry in Walthamstow, at the newly renovated William Morris Gallery. I enjoyed my local street party for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I also discovered the delights of Victoria Park, which I visited several times, including during the Olympics when the BT Live Site provided a great family day out.”
Claire Doble


For me, 2012 was all about one-off festivals like BT River of Music and BT London Live where I saw Blur close the Olympic celebrations. There were also smaller experiences like sampling “pick your own” strawberries on the roof of the new Harmony boat on the Thames. Seeing Mark Rylance as Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe was an honour, as was being in a room with London’s acting elite at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. But the stand-out event, and it was so immense and unmatched that I’m not sure “event” really covers it, was Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony. I watched on TV (while playing an elaborate Olympic-themed drinking game) and am not ashamed to say that parts of it moved me to tears.”
Louise Ridley


“The undoubted highlight of my year was being part of the Thames Jubilee Pageant. Seeing 1,000 boats, carrying all manner of people, come together in celebration of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, was something I’ll never forget. It was especially brilliant to see everyone ignoring the wet weather and carrying on regardless! Cultural highlights of my year were seeing Henry V at the Globe Theatre and finally visiting the Steam Museum at Kew. In 2012, London for me has also been augmented by the addition of Duck and Waffle to the capital’s vertical gastronomy scene, as well as a new Hawksmoor outpost in Air Street and the continued expansion of London’s craft beer scene.”
Caroline Roddis


“There have been so many amazing things to enjoy this year.  My highlights have to include the bright and beautiful paintings of David Hockney at the Royal Academy and the fabulous glamour of the musical Top Hat. I was thrilled to explore the Cutty Sark when it reopened looking more stunning than ever before. I loved the giant Olympic Rings at Tower Bridge and watching the city welcome the Olympic Games. I went to see the beach volleyball and loved the feeling of being on a beach in the middle of Horse Guard’s Parade. It has been an incredible 2012 for me!”


“Who wouldn’t put this year’s summer of sport as the number one highlight of 2012? However, it wasn’t just the sporting competitions that stood out for me. The showcase of celebrations and cultural events pulled together by the Mayor’s office was fantastic. In particular, the breath-taking open-air performance of Bells in Finchley, North London, on the day that the Olympic torch passed through the area. This aerial dance performance, a collaboration between Theater Tol (Belgium) and Akademi (London), was utterly original and awe-inspiring.

My kids also loved tracking down the many disguised Wenlocks and Mandevilles that were dotted around London throughout the summer. The trails were reminiscent of the Faberge egg hunt at Easter, which they also enjoyed.”
Lianne Korilin


“Aside from the all the buzz and excitement that goes with living and working in an Olympic city over the summer, there have been plenty of pre- and post-Games highlights. The bunting, the cake, and the precious hours before the torrential rain made for a brilliant Diamond Jubilee celebration in Battersea Park – I even saw the Queen as she floated past on the Royal Barge! The David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy lived up to all the hype and I also ticked a couple of London’s smaller museums off my list – Keat’s House and the Freud Museum. My favourite theatre of the year was undoubtedly Constellations (but in a parallel universe it might not be…)”


“From Damien Hirst at Tate Modern to Fifty Years of Bond Style at the Barbican, 2012 has been a top year for exhibitions in London. I also loved seeing the totally bonkers Lucho Libre Mexican wrestling at Bethnal Green’s Resistance Gallery where I enjoyed a night of spandex, cabaret, comedy and body-slamming fun.

Culinary highlights included dinner at Ceviche, London’s hottest new Peruvian restaurant, and a delightful, great-value afternoon tea at Soho’s secret tea rooms, sited in a vintage-style room above a pub.

A visit to the Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park was a stand-out moment for me, as well as soaking up some of the cultural events that ran alongside London 2012 – seeing hats on some of the capital’s most famous statues as part of Hatwalk and being wowed by the Lords of Lightning, who flung four million volts of raw electricity at one another at the hip Frank’s bar, perched atop Peckham multi-storey car park in South London, which has epic views of the city’s skyline.”
Janine Kelso


“An incredible year in London for me: from watching the Diamond Jubilee Pageant at Battersea Park to white water rafting at an Olympic venue, going up the Orbit during the 2012 games and bouncing on Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege (an inflatable Stonehenge) . My theatre highlights have included Chariots of Fire, Last of the Haussmann’s, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, and Constellations. From a foodie perspective I have loved all the street food at the South Bank and the most amazing breakfast with breath-taking panoramic views of London from the Duck and Waffle. There were so many surprises too, including the amazing pop-up circus spectacular in Piccadilly Circus and watching London’s Bridges dazzle. Roll on 2013 I can’t wait!
Madelene Yeshin


“My best experience of 2012 was at the Paralympic Games. After a few hours spent looking around the Olympic Park, enjoying the architecture, parklands and friendly atmosphere, I headed into the stadium for the athletics. I saw Oscar Pistorius unexpectedly lose the T44 200m final and David Weir roar into the lead at the last minute to win the 5,000m wheelchair race. So exciting! I thought the tickets were amazing value at just £20.

My second pick of the year is David Hockney: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts. I loved walking through room after room of Hockney’s big, colourful paintings. I was impressed by the fact that he has remained so productive and creative into his 70s, experimenting with new technologies such as iPad drawings, and spending days working outside in the Yorkshire countryside with spectacular results.”

What was your highlight of the year in London?

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The Olympic Journey Exhibition at the Royal Opera House Wed, 01 Aug 2012 07:14:08 +0000

This week I travelled all the way from Ancient Greece, through 19th-century France to land smack bang in the middle of Olympic London 2012 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

The ROH’s The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games exhibition is a nice primer on the history of the games, followed by a just-what-I-wanted-to-see display of Olympic hardware in the form of torches, medals and select athletes’ memorabilia.

Beginning with the first Olympic Games almost 3,000 years ago, the show features sportily decorated Greek amphora dating from around 500BC, which inspires a cool animation of a chariot race. Moving on to Paris in the 1890s, we meet Pierre de Coubertin, whose vision of a civilising universal sporting event drove him, via the village of Much Wenlock in Shropshire, to create the modern Olympic Games. The first games of the modern Olympiad were held in Athens in 1896.

Following the history lesson, you get to see the Olympic Torches that were used for each games from Berlin 1936 onwards, accompanied by footage and diagrams of the most interesting torch routes. I found this bit unexpectedly moving, perhaps because it’s where local heroes and communities get directly involved in what is arguably the most “universal” event that happens in our world to this day.

The final room shows a set of medals from every summer Olympics (confirming my suspicion that the London 2012 medals are huge – the biggest yet!). There’s also a display on the games throughout the years comprising personal memorabilia from 20 representative athletes, who demonstrate the values of the Olympic movement.

The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games is a great little exhibition. It’s free to enter and only takes about 45 mins to 1 hour to see. Plus there’s the opportunity to get your picture taken with the London 2012 torch – just be sure to grip it a little more firmly than I did (see above).

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Victoria Park Prepares for the Opening Ceremony Fri, 27 Jul 2012 17:04:12 +0000

This morning as the Olympic Flame made its way up the Thames to Central London, I headed east to the Victoria Park BT London Livesite to take a look around.

The Victoria Park site, like the Hyde Park version, is a huge fenced off area that features giant screens, and a load of other entertainment. This includes some of the Mayor of London Presents “Wonder” installations – Aurora, Bloom, Drip and The Universal Tea Machine- which I was actually hoping to see for myself, not realising they’d be tucked away inside with no public access at such an early hour. I did, however, get to check out the impressive World in London photographic exhibition that’s now displayed on the outside fence.

With tonight’s Opening Ceremony expected to be one of the most popular events at the Livesites, there was a definite feeling of excitement in the air, even at 11am. Guaranteed-entry tickets for tonight’s BT London Livesite in Victoria Park are all sold out. If you’re lucky enough to have one, gates open at 4pm .

However, the beauty of this venue is that up to 10,000 people will also get in free this evening from 7pm on a first come, first served basis. In true British fashion, a queue was already forming by noon today, so we suggest getting down there fairly quicksmart if you’d like to attend this evening’s festivities.

Organisers wanted people to know that they won’t be allowed to bring anything into the site such as food, drinks or chairs (baby food is allowed), but everything is available to buy inside.

BT London Live Victoria Park One of the big screens at the BT London Livesite in Victoria Park BT Livesite Workers (L-R) Martin Cowan, Lewis Coates and Josh Nuttall Ferris wheel at the BT London Livesite in Victoria Park A glimpse of Olympic Park from Victoria Park Olympics fans arrive to join the queue at Victoria Park Livesite The queue for free tickets at 11.30am 27 July The World in London photographic exhibit at Victoria Park World in London at Victoria Park

Here’s our list of Places to Watch the Opening Ceremony. Where are you watching it? Let us know in the comments below.

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Dutch and Tirol Cyclists Ride Into London for the Olympics Thu, 26 Jul 2012 13:10:13 +0000  

Two teams of charity cyclists arrive in London today having ridden all the way from Europe to celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A group of 150 orange-clad Dutch cyclists will pitch up at the Oranjecamping site in Walthamstow at 3pm this afternoon. They’re sportive cyclists on a tour organised by The Royal Dutch Cycling Federation (KNWU) that saw them ride from Utrecht, via Hoek of Holland and Harwich to London. Their arrival heralds a week of Olympic celebrations at Heineken House in Alexandra Palace. The cycling team is led by Olympic snowboarding champion Nicolien Sauerbreij and accompanied by the illustrious Dutch umpa band Kleintje Pils.

Another group of 20 cyclists from the Austrian Tirol will reach London Bridge today after their eight-day, 1,300km charity ride from Innsbruck. The ride was in aid of British charity Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK).

Supporting the Tirol cycle team at the start was the UK’s Heather Mills, hopeful for the Paralympic Games in Sochi 2014 for the British Disabled Ski Team, who joined them as they set off from the Bergisel stadium. During the ride’s final stage from Ramsgate to Tower Bridge, British sport personalities will join including BBC Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell and ex GB ski racer Konrad Bartelski.

The Tirol team’s arrival coincides in with the official opening of the Olympic hospitality house, Austria House Tirol, at Trinity House.

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What’s On in London This Weekend: 13-15 July 2012 Thu, 12 Jul 2012 09:00:27 +0000
Brand new music and a brand new festival head up this weekend’s activities in London. There’s also the chance to sample top tapas and wear a French wig (not at the same time).

New Music 20×12 Weekend at the Southbank Centre
Beat boxing, fire artists and even giant wasps are promised in this weekend of musical premieres and activities at the South Bank Centre. Twenty new pieces have been commissioned for 2012 as part of the London 2012 Festival. They’re all 12 minutes long and are inspired by the dynamism of the Games. You can fit rather a lot into 12 minutes – take the short opera Our Day, which tells the story of Olympic gold medallist Mary Peters against the backdrop of the troubles in Northern Ireland in 1972. Most events are free but some workshops are ticketed.
13-15 Jul

Bastille Day celebration at Canada Square Park
This not-so-British celebration is part of the City of London Festival which runs in June and July. Bring your own wine and cheese to commemorate the turning point in the French revolution when the Bastille prison in Paris was stormed in 1789. The anniversary is France’s national day, and so it’s fitting that French acts will perform in Canada Square Park in Canary Wharf in the afternoon and early evening. Entertainment starts with euro ska jazz from Santa Macairo Orkestar, followed by young musician L whose songs are twists on French music, and finally the KKC Orchestra which fuses hip-hop and electro swing.
14 Jul

Vietnam Summer Festival at Spitalfields Market
Vietnam is proudly waving its flag at this brand new festival at the renowned Spitalfields food market, where food stalls from different regions will offer tasters of dishes like the classic Pho noodle soup – often eaten for breakfast in the country. If you’re feeling energetic, try out traditional Vietnamese games like jute-bag jumping (much like sack races in the UK) or the intriguingly named “dragon-snake”, a complex group game involving a script, a doctor and a very angry dragon.
14 Jul

Rioja Tapas Fantasticas at Potters Fields Park
It will be fiesta time on the South Bank for this celebration of top Spanish cuisine. Raise a glass of red, white or rosé Rioja wine in Potters Fields Park, overlooking Tower Bridge. Tapas – the perfect walk-and-eat cuisine – will be on sale from London’s Spanish restaurants and live Spanish music and cookery demonstrations are also on offer. You might return as a wine buff after some workshops and wine walks with experts Olly Smith and Susy Atkins.
14-15 Jul

What are you up to this weekend? Post your tips below.

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Five Tips for Travel in London During the Olympic and Paralympic Games Wed, 20 Jun 2012 16:00:29 +0000

London is going to be busy during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. An extra three million journeys are forecast for the busiest days of the Olympics, which take place from 27 July to 12 August, and the Paralympics from 29 August to 9 September.

Follow these tips to keep delays and frustration to a minimum – and we suggest a healthy dose of patience as well.

1) Plan Ahead
Don’t dash out of the door and work out your route on the way. Prepare your travel plans in advance using the resources on offer, and remember that every day of the Games is different due to the multiple events taking place.

2) Use the Tools Available
Transport for London (TfL) have created wealth of travel resources for the Olympics, including interactive hotspot maps for public transport and roads which show day-by-day breakdowns of busy areas. There are charts of predicted wait times for each 30 minute period at every tube station and you can search for any temporary road changes in your area. For those with Olympic tickets, there is an online spectator journey planner. You can also sign up to Transport for London’s social media channels for the latest travel alerts.

3) Adapt to the Olympics
If you know your route will be busy, consider leaving earlier or later or taking a different way to avoid peak periods. For short journeys, cycling or walking could be faster – there are 47 tube journeys that can be walked in under 10 minutes. Consider using river transport like Thames Clippers too, as there’ll be extra boat services laid on.

4) Be Aware that Transport will Change
Bus services could be diverted because of temporary road changesand bus stops may be moved or temporarily suspended. If stations are crowded, TfL may introduce a one-way system or close altogether if they get too full. There will be extra services too – Tube and DLR trains will run about an hour later than usual and there will be extra evening services on the Jubilee, Central and District lines.

TfL has outlined planned changes and signs in stations will display the latest information, but it’s wise to check the TfL journey planner before you travel. You can also follow @GAOTG on Twitter or sign up for Olympic travel email updates to keep up to date.

5) Avoid Driving if at all Possible
TfL’s advice is to avoid driving in Central London and around Games venues from mid-July if you can. It also suggests motorists avoid the Olympic Route Network, 109 miles of road linking Games venues together. Watch out for areas where Olympic road events will take place, such as the Cycling Road Races on 28 and 29 July.

You can put any Olympic travel questions to TfL in a Twitter chat on 21 June at 1-2pm. Follow the hashtag #GAOTG to take part.

For more advice on travelling during the Games visit the Transport for London or Get Ahead of the Games websites.

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Olympic Opening Ceremony Details Revealed Tue, 12 Jun 2012 15:20:06 +0000

Masterminded by British director Danny Boyle, who is famous for films such as Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days Later, the Olympic Opening Ceremony looks set to be a colourful celebration of English life.

Entitled Isles of Wonder after a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the ceremony will see the stadium transformed into a rural idyll that features grass, giant maypoles and flowers that represent each British nation. There will even be clouds that will produce rain if the English weather is not obliging!

The striking vista will be populated by morris dancers, families having picnics, villagers playing cricket and a menagerie of farm animals that includes 12 horses and 70 sheep. Music will be integral to the ceremony and there will be a pre-recorded score from Underworld as well as live music from famous faces.

Two mosh pits will also be created at either end of the arena, one themed around the Last Night of the Proms and one around Glastonbury Festival. These will be filled with ticket holders, although details of how to obtain tickets have not yet been announced.

A 23-tonne bell, which is the largest harmonically-tuned bell in the world and was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, will be rung to open the ceremony.

It has been reported that the show will evolve to display more of Britain’s urban scenery but in any case, with a cast of 10,000 that has already done 157 rehearsals, it should be nothing short of spectacular.

What do you think of the plans so far?

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Household Cavalry Museum Opens Olympic Exhibition Fri, 30 Mar 2012 12:00:57 +0000 Olympic medal. Photo by Vickie Flores Olympic torch. Photo by Vickie Flores Olympic exhibition. Photo by Vickie Flores

A new exhibition has opened at the Household Cavalry Museum, celebrating members’ of the Household Cavalry’s participation in the Olympic Games since 1908.

Five Olympic medals and an Olympic torch from 1996 are among the items on display.

You can see the Olympic exhibition, along with the permanent displays about the history and role of the Household Cavalry, and take a peep into the working stables until 17 June. After that, the museum closes for the Olympic Beach Volleyball competition and will re-open in October.

The Household Cavalry Museum is on Horse Guards, London SW1. It costs around £6 to enter, and you can book tickets here

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Team London Ambassador Uniforms Unveiled Fri, 16 Mar 2012 15:30:20 +0000 Boris Johnson with Team London Ambassadors. Photo Vickie Flores Boris Johnson meat Team London Ambassadors Three Team London Ambassadors

Expect to see a lot of purple during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as that’s what 8,000 Team London Ambassadors will be wearing!

The uniform was unveiled by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, this morning at Wimbledon Station. It consists of a purple polo shirt and trilby hat.

Team London Ambassadors are volunteers who will be welcoming and assisting visitors to London during the Games.

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Olympic Stamps on Sale Now and Diamond Jubilee Stamps Coming Soon Thu, 05 Jan 2012 10:00:56 +0000

If you’re looking to boost your stamp collection, 2012 is the year to do it!

Royal Mail is issuing some interesting new collections featuring London events and figures this year, starting with the Olympic “definitive”, or everyday stamps, which go on sale today.

Olympic and Paralympic Stamps
The new stamps feature the Olympic and Paralympic logos, as well as an image of the Queen’s head, and are set to brighten up millions of letters.

After the Games, Royal Mail will issue a set of Gold Medal stamps to honour all Team GB victories.

Diamond Jubilee Stamps
Royal Mail will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with three new stamp sets:

  • House of Windsor stamps featuring the five monarchs from the start of the 20th century, issued 2 Feb
  • A miniature sheet with six portraits of the Queen taken from banknotes, coins and stamps issued during her reign, including a 1st class diamond blue definitive, which replaces the standard 1st class gold definitive during the Jubilee Year, issued 6 Feb
  • A set of eight stamps featuring images of the Queen during the six decades of her reign, issued 31 May

More London Stamp News
That’s not all! Look out for special Charles Dickens stamps in June to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth, and an upcoming collection on British Fashion Designers (hope there’ll be a few Londoners there too).

While you await these new collections, keep your inner philatelist occupied at the British Postal Museum & Archive, where you can see stamps from all over the world.

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