London calling: Experience the 2012 Olympic Games before the crowds

London 2010 Olmpic stadium

(London’s Olympic Stadium – as it will look at completion. Courtesy: London 2012)

Prices for tickets to the 2012 London Olmpics were announced today – and it looks like they’re going to top out at more than $3,000.

But here’s a way to save some dough: go see London now.

As I wrote in my story for – Experience London ahead of the 2012 Olympics – you can avoid the crowds and get a sneak peek at Olympic venues, the Olympic Park and a wide range of Olympic-inspired arts and cultural events.

The 2012 Olympic Park is being built on 500 acres of a formerly rundown part of London’s east end and will contain the Olympic Stadium, an aquatic center, a Pringle-shaped velodrome for bicycle racing, a handball arena and the Olympic Village, which will house many athletes. The construction site itself is off-limits to the public, but guided walking tours and bus tours currently take visitors through nearby neighborhoods and historic areas and to spots that offer great views of the work in progress.


Many Olympic events will take place outside the official Olympic Park site, in existing sports venues and open spaces. For example, Hyde Park will be used for the triathlon and for marathon swimming. Lord’s Cricket Ground will host archery competitions, and equestrian events will take place in Greenwich Park. These and many other sites are available to visit and tour before the games as well.

Men’s and women’s soccer finals will be held in the new, 90,000 seat Wembley Stadium, which has a sliding roof and is about six miles from downtown London. (The first Wembley Stadium was also at this site and was the venue for the 1948 Olympic Games and for the 1966 World Soccer Cup.) In addition to attending a regular sport or entertainment event here, visitors can take a 90-minute tour of the stadium that includes the England changing room, the players’ tunnel, and famous sports trophies and artifacts such as the torch that started the 1948 Olympic Games. Shorter, 60-minute tours are also available. See Wembley Stadium for prices and more information.

Wimbledon, the grass-court tennis venue famous for being the site of the Wimbledon tennis tournament since 1877, will host the tennis competitions during the 2012 games. Prior to the games, visitors can attend other tennis tournaments and visit the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, which has a collection of historic tennis attire and artifacts, a film about the science of tennis and an unusual tour led by a ghost-like image of John McEnroe.

For information about the North Greenwich Arena and some of the other venues that will host some of the 26 sports played during 2010 Games, see Visit London or London 2012.

And here’s something else you – and your kids – can take full advantage of in London if you arrive before the crowds: complimentary hotel nanny service.

When the Athenaeum Hotel & Apartments decided to hire a team of nannies, several children were on the interview panel.  Three highly qualified nannies now share the hotel’s Kids Concierge duties.

Kids under 12 get complimentary meals, access to the hotel’s “Toy Shed” and special attention from The Athenaeum’s nannies year-round, but if your family is planning to pop over to London before the end of this month, take a look at the special package the hotel is offering that includes three hours of babysitting service.

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