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Here are some pictures of the other venues of the 2012 London Olympics located outside the main venue at Stratford. To recap briefly, we had a chance to see the 2012 summer games up close and here are our earlier posts: snapshots part 1, part 2International Broadcast Centerbadmintondiving, and track cycling.

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We were lucky to be able to use the official press bus to shuttle between the venues around London.

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We spotted this official BMW for Team GB parked with several others at a Thistle Hotel near Bayswater on the edge of Hyde Park. Someone important was staying there.

olympics daytime-10 Wembley Arena – where we saw the  badminton games.

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North Greenwich Arena – taken from somewhere near the Blackwall Tunnel on the official press bus which was a double decker.  We had a good vantage point.

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Near the entrance to the North Greenwich Arena.

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ExCel Halls from Connaught Bridge.

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The back of the ExCel Halls from near the Emirates Royal Docks.

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North end of the ExCel Center.

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A hotel located next to the ExCel Center.

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Aquatics Center – this building is actually inside the main venue.

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This is the athlete’s village condos which are being converted into residential units. The press had no access to the village during the games – notice the flags on the balconies.

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A giant tilted mirror that was mounted on a building inviting visitors to snap a picture of themselves in the Olympics games main venue. Can you spot us ?

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Just found a bunch of pictures taken during the 2012 London Olympics that are intended to be posted. In our initial post of Olympics snapshots last year (it’s here), we focused on the events we saw. Here, the focus is on the venues.

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What’s the name of this thing ?

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It was massive. Noticed the airship ?

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We did not bother to get to the top but it must have a very good view of the stadium next to it.

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The other (more horizontal) big red object on the main venue was this installation by Coca-Cola.

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Other interesting installations:

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RUN

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Shops just outside the main venue – Prada, etc.

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The Megastore inside the main venue.

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The athletics stadium.

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It can change its color.

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More photos of the other venues in part 3 to come.

Roganic is a restaurant by Simon Rogan in Marylebone, London.  He is known for the innovative food served in his restaurant L’Enclume situated in the faraway Lake District in northwest England.

The restaurant is referred to as “pop-up” in the press and it is accordingly sparsely decorated as it only has a 2-year lease.

The staff was very friendly, the atmosphere informal. There were four of us, two on Olympics-related businesses and we were on vacation to see the Games.

Those who were on business arrived late by almost half an hour, they were excused as their responsibilities were more-or-less round the clock. Three types of rolls were served as soon as all were seated. The flavors of the bread were different but the texture were all the same. Amuse bouche soon followed.

We were hungry by that time and curious about the chef’s creations – so we all went for the 10-course tasting menu. They also offered a 6-course regular as well as a 6-course vegetarian menu. First course was Peas with beef tongue, dill and calamint.  Sue did not want beef tongue so that they substituted it with artichoke – which is the version of this dish on the vegetarian menu.

Grown-up yolk from the golden egg, celeriac and garlic. We forgot the explanation.

Keen’s dumpling, cream of onion, nausturtiums and liquorice powder. The brown spots in the bowl matched the sprinkled on liquorice powder.

This dish is the most visually-striking of the evening. Raw mackeral in coal oil, lovage, and gooseberries. Coal oil and lovage ?

Grilled salad smoked over embers, truffle custard and cobnuts. “I” who was on business spent a good 15 minutes on the phone to deal with an emerging situation, poor girl, so we were eating exceedingly slowly.  The restaurant staff politely told us that we should hurry a bit as the kitchen was “concerned”. They were very nice about it and we were ok with the suggestion, after all, we started late.

Razors with sea herbs, turnips, and pearl barley. A change of background color of the plate was not a bad idea but the plate was very japanese-y.

Chick ‘O’ Hake, beetroots, red orach, sorrel and cockles. If I remember correctly, it was a piece of grilled crispy chicken skin(?) on top of a chunk of fish.

Reg’s duck breast with yellow beans, sweetbreads, sage and corn.

Douglas fir, cherries, goat’s milk, and pennyroyal.

Hazelnuts and sweet cheese, rosehips and anise hyssop.

A total of 41 ingredients were mentioned in the menu. We have not eaten a meal like this before where a English-language dictionary was needed to explain many of the British vegetables that went into the dishes.

Since the four of us had not seen each other for a long time, we were spending more time chatting than tasting. It was a shame that we cannot remember more about the tastes as a lot of efforts must have gone into designing the dishes. If you are an adventurous diner, it is certainly worth a try.

We were the last guests to leave Roganic and it was so late that we completely missed the Olympics beach volley ball evening competitions.

For our trip to see the 2012 Olympics Games in London, we left hotel arrangements till the last minute. At the time, there were news that the room prices were dropping because people were scared away from Central London due to the sky-high rates. But, the choicest hotels were all gone and what was left were mediocre hotels charging a slightly elevated high season rate. We used Booking.com which provides for a given hotel, data on when a room was last taken, and how many people are looking at the remaining vacant rooms. After quite a bit of rushed research, we ended up booking two hotels for the 8 days (4+4).

Knowing London, many hotels may still have Victorian to mid-century old plumbing or air-conditioning (this is midsummer), so we were careful in choosing only modern hotels. Our first selection was The Z Hotel Victoria.  It was convenient for us since we were coming from the south coast by coach which terminated at Victoria. We thought at the time the price was not unreasonable. I just checked the room rate just now –  we paid in July almost doubled today’s rate.

The hotel seemed to have just finished renovating so that it could open in time for the Olympics Games. Our room was supposed to measure 14-square meters with a queen-sized bed. Really ? The lack of space was really an issue.  We could not open both our suitcases fully unless we put one of them on the bed.

Our room did not have a window – we did not really care as we were out all hours of the day.  The super-thin 40-inch Samsung TV was appropriately deployed on the wall to give the room some more light, in addition to the upward pointing perimeter white lights. No wardrobe, so jackets, etc. were hanging off the wall.

After four days, we really had enough of it. We were tired after hours of being in crowds but could not relax in the room, and we were getting into each other’s way. Overall, on the plus side, the hotel atmosphere was modern and a bit of wannabe hip – the staff were cheerful and helpful.

Our second hotel is The Blakemore in Bayswater. The hotel is located on a quiet street just a couple of blocks from the bustling Queensway.  While I was a student here many years ago, a group of my friends rented an apartment in this area which has not changed much if any.

After the Z Hotel, the space we had at the Blakemore was palatial in comparison. Plus the window which looked out to the rooftops of west London, it was very much appreciated. Breakfast was included!

The room was on the top floor and the bathroom had a slanted roof. This hotel had apparently gone through a renovation less than six months ago (deduced by Tripadvisor’s warnings of construction noise posted at least 6 months ago).

Debated whether we wanted to show pictures of toilets on the blog. But as a traveler, other than the bed, this is the next most important aspect of a hotel room. There were no bath tub, instead it had a modern roomy rainfall-type shower – relaxing indeed.

Despite our lateness in making arrangements and the crush of tourists in London, we were glad that the accommodation problem was solved.

This is probably the last post about a specific Olympic sport that we saw in London. We have so far written about badminton, 100m sprint, and track cycling.

The Aquatic Center was designed by Zaha Hadid who described the concept at her site:

A concept inspired by the fluid geometry of water in motion, creating spaces and a surrounding environment in sympathy with the river landscape of the Olympic Park. An undulating roof sweeps up from the ground as a wave, enclosing the pools of the Centre with its unifying gesture.

She has a lot of pictures of the building on her site – look it up.

Warming up for the event. Had I paused for a few seconds, I could have taken a picture with all the divers in the air !

Because of the arrangement of the swimming and diving pools, the spectators’ seats are placed on the longer side of the main hall. And it was steep as we sat quite high up – definitely not for people with vertigo. For those seated high up on the side, the downwardly sweeping roof could block the view directly across although it does not affect the view on the pools.

The event we saw was the 3 meter springboard women’s final.

Diving is one of those sports that happens in a second and it is all over. Because all the twists and turns happen so fast, the only objective way I (Chris) can judge the competitor’s skill is by the splash that is created.

In the end, two Chinese and one Mexican shared the podium. The gold medalist led from the start and won by a comfortable margin.

After the victory ceremony, we had a chance to see the winners. Wu Minxia (吴敏霞) won the gold medal. According to Wikipedia, after this event, it was revealed that her parents withheld information that her grandmother died a year before, and that her mother had cancer. Her father said he misled her to keep her focused on training.

He Zi (何姿) won the silver medal.

He Zi and Wu minxia both won a gold medal as a team in synchronized diving later in the week.

Laura Sánchez won the bronze medal. Apparently, the president of Mexico telephoned her while she was being interviewed by the press.

It was exciting to see the medalists being interviewed. But towards the end of the week, many of the athletes have competed in their events and started showing up as spectators to cheer their countryman/woman, and mingling with the crowds. The US women gymnastics team were seated several rows from us. Gabby Douglas !

This is the historic moment of Usain Bolt captured from where we were standing in the stadium.

What was remarkable was the hush just before the start, the whole stadium got really quiet. Playback the clip above and hear it for yourself.

We were standing in an area near the starting line. The world record is 9.58 seconds and the Olympic record was 9.69 seconds (see top left hand corner of the scoreboard).

As soon as the gun went off, the sprinters took off and the crowd started roaring again.

The race must be one of the shortest thrill that was enjoyed by millions of people simultaneously.

Usain and his team mate and rival Yohan Blake just returned after a victory lap with the Jamaican flag. At the right edge of the photo, people were waving green and yellow inflatable arms in the form of Usain’s famous pointing gesture. Those things actually looked rather bizzare.

In this picture, Usain was just getting up from having knelt to kiss the ground – for an entire minute it seemed – and definitely longer than the time he took to win the race.

A new Olympic record was made!  9.63 seconds. That is roughly 37.38 km/h or 23.23 mph.

We were in the stadium the following evening and saw Usain receiving the gold medal. In this picture, he had just received the medal and was jumping – see this feet off the ground and also the blurred image on the big screen.

Showing off the medal in front of the world’s press.

What a moment.

The velodrome, located in the western edge of the Olympics Park, is a simple but beautiful piece of architecture. With a curved and sloping facade of natural wood, the outside mimics the inside. We went on Day 10 of the games to see track cycling (would have loved to see BMX cycling which started after we had left).

When we arrived, the races had already begun. But we managed to find seats near the starting/finishing line.

We saw a series of men short distance sprint races. This type of one-on-one race required just three circuits around the track.

A lot of strategy is involved in this type of cat-and-mouse race – until one decides to start sprinting. If one is at the edge on top the slope,  extra speed is gained when coming down.  The leader has to constantly looking back to see where the opponent is. Sorry about my shaky hands holding the camera.

Jason Kenny of Team GB won the gold medal, beating the French.

In the middle of the track (the pit) was where all the preparations for the races were done.

The next event was the elimination race of the women’s Omnium. We had no idea of the structure or rules of the event until it started. But it was a lot of fun to watch. The match started with 18 riders and every two laps, the slowest rider was eliminated.

The omnium consists of 6 events, according to the 2012 web site:

– Flying lap: this is a race against the clock. 
– Points race (30km for men, 20km for women): riders score points for sprints which occur every 10 laps during the race, and for lapping the field.
– Elimination race: a bunch race with an intermediate sprint every two laps; the last rider each time is eliminated.
– Individual pursuit: (4,000m for men, 3,000m for women): two riders start at opposite sides of the track and race against the clock.
– Scratch race: This is a straightforward race over 16km for men and 10km for women. The first rider to cross the line wins.
– Time trial (1km for men, 500m for women): Each competitor rides the course aiming for the fastest time.

In an elimination race, in the back of the pack, the riders are all trying not to be the last, while those in the front wants to ride at an even pace to conserve energy.

Towards the end of the elimination race, when there are only two or three riders left, the strategy resembles those used in a sprint race.

It was a really very exciting event to watch!

Laura Trott of Team GB won the elimination race, and won the gold medal for the Omnium event on the following day.

While we were at the Olympics, we had a chance to visit the International Broadcast Center (IBC) and Main Press Center (MPC).

This is the home of the Olympics Broadcast Services (OBS). We had to get a guest pass in order to enter this area. The security checks, stricter than those at airports, were administered by the UK armed forces. Cameramen and photographers with all their equipment and bags were checked every time they come back to the IBC after an assignment. OBS also provided a bus service to take the media to venues outside the Olympic Park. Each bus was checked for bombs planted underneath or brought on board when it return to the IBC.

According to London 2012’s website on venues, the IBC/MPC Complex (52,000 square metres of studio space and 8,000 sq m of offices) is a 24-hour media hub for around 20,000 broadcasters, photographers and journalists who will bring the Games to an estimated four billion people worldwide.

According to the venue website, the Complex also has a temporary catering village with an 800-capacity press conference room, a 4,000-seat restaurant (photo below) and a 200m-long High Street running between the MPC and IBC with outlets such as banks, newsagents, travel agents and a post office.

Actually, there was a McDonald (in addition to the canteen shown above), a beauty/massage parlour, a stage where local bands perform nightly to entertain, and a store that sells Olympics memorabilia, including some T shirts and pins with exclusive media center design. The collectible pins are particularly rare as they are not sold anywhere.

Inside the IBC are studios that are occupied by the world’s TV broadcasters – NBC apparently got the largest studios – BBC seemed to have less floor space in the IBC but they have a live broadcasting stage located high up on a stack of containers in the Olympic park. This building contained banks of equipment just outside the entrances to many of the studios and miles of cables running on an elevated bed (see photo below).

We were also very lucky to be given a tour of the heart of the IBC – the OBS Tech suites.

This is where the video signals come in from the hundreds of TV cameras from all the venues, get sorted for transmission and then archived. Just imagine if something went wrong in here – it would be an international incident!

Each of the technical functions is designated an area as indicated on the glass wall.

Audio services have their own sound-proof rooms, separate from but located next to Commentary and Switching.

A large news room which feeds a news channel is located next to the tech suites.

Outside the IBC are several so-called “satellite farms” – the one shown below is just a small one.

It was truly a unique opportunity to see where and how all the Olympics events are made viewable around the world.

Just watched the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. What a blast!

We came back from London after spending 8 days there to watch the games. Below are some snapshots of the games we saw. Later posts will go into more details including some videos.

This is the first time we traveled to see the Olympics games. Initially, we only had tickets to see two Olympics events: Badminton and Volleyball. In the end, we managed to see a few more events.

Badminton, mixed doubles, China v China, final.

Volleyball women, Serbia v Turkey.

Table tennis, men, team, Austria v Germany.

Boxing, women, Brazil v China.

Weightlifting, women, Russia (she broke the world record here).

Handball, women, Spain v Croatia.

Track cycling, men, 250m sprint.

Usain Bolt’s 100 m sprint, after his victory lap.

Hockey, men, India v Belgium.

Diving, women, 3m springboard, final.

We thought the games were very successfully run and had a very memorable time in London, albeit rather exhausting after running from one venue to another.