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Fighting for Air at the London Olympics Closing Ceremony at Victoria Park

A UK Olympic Summer Month: Day 28
A tour through London on the last day of the Olympics with stops at the London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Millennium Dome, riding the new Emirates Air Line, seeing the stadium and elbowing my way to the Olympics closing ceremony event in Victoria Park!

With a full day on our feet, my sister, Amy and I set out somewhat early to hit the Olympic town! Tickets were of course sold out way in advance, besides closing ceremony tickets at £1,500 (which were also gone the next time I checked), so we were going to wing it to see an event.

As we had no car, we walked to the nearby town, Faygate, for a train to the city. On our way over a local guy sitting in his car yelled at us and the conversation when something like this:
“Oye! Are you goin’ to the train?”
“Yes why?”
“No trains today, luv, nah, no trains”
“Oh, how come?”
“They don’t runa Sundays, you aint the first to come through here eitha!”
“Oh… how do we get to London then?”
“Hmm… Takes swig of beer Well you can go to the Horsham station, they still have trains going through. I’d take you myself, but… already had a beer.”

We were all relieved that he offered not to drive us.

So we took his word for it and headed back to a nearby bar at The Holmbush Inn where the barmaid let us use the phone to call a cab. I finally got to use the rest of my Northern Ireland and Scottish Sterling notes which everyone seemed to think was Monopoly money. We waited with a nice warm pint.

The cab showed up much sooner than expected so we had to chug down our drinks before heading to the station and caught our train to London.

London Bridge Station

We started our tour at London Bridge Railway Station. Immediately we saw pink shirt Olympic helpers guiding people and giving helpful information. When I asked them if it was possible to buy Olympic game tickets somehow they laughed at me, as if I was a child asking a parent a silly question. They did point us out to Victoria Park, which would be our best bet at getting some Olympic spirit on such short notice. So we had a game plan for the day!

We walked out and I was surprised to find this pillar to heaven right in front of me. I don’t remember that being there the last time I was here… Apparently The Shard is a record holding building completed about a month ago!

The Shard

309.6 metres (1,016 ft) high housing 95 Floors make the Shard the EU’s current tallest building! It should soon be surpassed by a building scheduled for completion this year in Moscow.

London Bridge

We went over the famous bridge for a few pictures and I was a bit disappointed to find no one else loudly singing the “London Bridge” nursery rhyme with me.

Me in front of London Bridge

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady!

We continued our walk along the Thames River and we spotted plenty of flags hanging out of restaurants, welcoming the tourists in town for the Olympics.

HMS Belfast

We were tempted to stop at the warship turned museum but didn’t have the time.

HMS Belfast

The 1938 launched light cruiser had quite a career including the participation in the Normandy Invasion in WWII!

Me with Olympic Mascot

Running with the Olympic Mascot. What are they suppose to be anyway… Aliens?

City Hall

Coming across the new City Hall building I was quite surprised to see the shape. I looked like the Gherkin building and has also been called “glass testicle”, “The Glass Gonad”, and “The Onion”.

City Hall London

The Greater London Authority must be very ballsy to use this their headquarters.

We stopped on the lawn here for a bit to eat. I tried a Scotch Egg which was deep fried egg covered in breadcrumbs and meat. It was filling to say the least. I ate my eggs in front of the excellent view of the Tower Bridge and soaked in the vibe of the crowd.

Potters Fields Park Crowds

Potters Fields Park was turned into a seating area with a big screen to watch Olympic events.

From here, we walked back to the metro and took it to North Greenwich Station.

Millennium Dome

We walked into the dome to have a look as crowds were coming out from USA vs. Spain finals basketball game. USA won 107 to 100 making it a pretty close game… The Spanish fans still seemed really happy and ran around waving their flag. The artistic gymnastics event was also held here. We grabbed a coffee for some energy and pushed forward.

O2 zone

The crowd was an interesting mix of camera sporting tourists wearing flags, smug locals, automatic weapon armed police and pink shirt Olympic volunteers!

Emirates Air Line

The first urban cable car in London sponsored by the Emirates Airline.

Emirates Air Line

Whoever named the cable car must be quite proud of themselves… I wonder how many customers ask for round trip tickets to Dubai at the ticket counter.

Millenium Dome

The 1 km ride was just opened about a month ago and at 295 ft (90 m) it provides some nice views over London. The pillars at the top of the Dome represent 12 months or 12 hours on a clock face. You know. Since “Time” was invented in England.

From the other side of the river, we walked to Canning Town Station and took the train up to the Olympic Park.

Unfortunately we couldn’t get into the heavily secured area. I expected plenty of ticket scalpers like at the Beijing Olympics, but no such luck. We got off at the Hackney Wick station and proceeded to the park.

Closing Ceremony at Victoria Park

We weren’t really sure what to expect from the park and didn’t really see too many people headed in that direction… until we got to the main entrance.

Victoria Park lines

Yes. We waited almost 2 hours in this line.

Once inside the main screening area was packed with people lounging around on the lawn with the feel of an outdoor soft rock concert. They had different food stalls set up around the park ranging from burgers, fish n’ chips, to Chinese food. We opted for the pulled pork sandwiches… delish!

Victoria Park Ferris Wheel

They also had a few rides such as the Ferris wheel, a zip line and an assortment of carnival type games.

We explored the gift shop briefly before staking our spot to watch the closing ceremony. The medal count came out to the USA on top (104), China in second (88), and Great Britain doing surprisingly well in third (65). Home advantage definitely helps!

Victoria Park inside

It was fun to hear the different groups in the crowd cheer for some of the most random countries.

The show was fun, but spent a bit too much time on the music aspect of UK’s culture. The entire park came alive when the Spice Girls came out on their Minis.

Towards the end of the spectacle, we started towards the metro to get home. Entire streets were closed and traffic was rerouted in order to accommodate the massive crowds walking through. It was quite hectic, but the police and Olympic volunteers did a decent job of keeping everything orderly.

We even met up with our cousin, Daniel, who was also checking out what all the fuss was about. While waiting for him, we saw a guy get arrested for not complying with an officer’s request to move along. Don’t mess with the law especially during high stress times like these!
We eventually got to Victoria Station and took the first train back. Even the trains out were packed.

The last day of the Olympics was really intense, but satisfying. On the train ride back, I had a warm fuzzy feeling pondering how Londoners must have felt after all the work and preparation, they could now proudly say, “Yeah, we did good. The London Olympics were a success!”

I couldn’t stop smiling. I’m glad I witnessed the excitement. Great job London and congratulations UK on third place!

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