Five observations about London Olympic Park, from roaming beer to bad pizza

Greg Wyshynski
August 8, 2012

LONDON — While I've been in the London Olympic Park before, I hadn't traveled from one end to the other until Wednesday. And now I need an IV drip for dehydration, and it'd be cool if they tossed in some pain meds...

I don't want to say that walking from the Greenway Gate to the BMX Stadium is an arduous journey, but the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy had slightly less walking. The Park is 2.5-square kilometers, but that's once you get inside the gates. Arrive via the West Ham tube stop — labeled as a primary entry point on official transit maps — and it's a nearly 30-minute walk to the the venue followed by another 30-minute walk to get across the venue.

[ Photos: London's best and worst Olympic venues ]

And "walk" is deceiving — it's more like, walk, stop, walk, wait for the family to take a photo, walk, uh-oh fat guy, walk, oh-crap-we're-stuck-in-the-beer-line, walk, "What do you mean the turn was back there?", stop, sneer, walk…

Luckily, the Olympic Park is filled with awesomeness when it's not simply being the Sidewalk From Hell. Among the things I observed in the last year (or hour that felt like a year).

1. Beer Comes To You

Any event that brings over 100,000 people into a 2.5-square kilometer space is obviously going to have massive lines for food and drink.

But the Olympic Park — and other venues around London — has these vendors with coolers that are walking around, bringing beverages to you.

That includes the ones with flags that read "BEER" who inexplicably were left out of the parade of nations, despite having millions of subjects who proudly salute them.

Thank you, beer man, for bringing us closer to what we love.

Even if it's Heineken.

2. It's a Place To Find Tickets

No scalper (or in London, "tout") is going to be dumb enough to try and peddle his wares inside of the beast's belly, considering the practice is illegal and there are men with large weapons roaming the grounds.

But that doesn't mean tickets aren't available in the Olympic Park … you just to have some tickets to trade.

The handball events had several fans looking to snag tickets, as well as field hockey. There are online ticket-swapping options for fans, but it would have been great to see LOCOG create a designated ticket swapping zone inside the Park, rather than having fans just stand in the crowd with sullen faces.

(By the way, check out the Get Me To The Games blog for one fan's attempt to land tickets to Olympic events. Good read and nice color.)

3. Aesthetics

This here is the top of the Velodrome, which slightly resembles a Jawa Sandcrawler from "Star Wars" if created by woodworkers in Maine. Most of the venues in the Park have some personality, including the main Olympic Stadium. But the aesthetics go beyond that.

There are beautiful flowers planted along with walkways; open fields for fans to sit and eat lunch; and some nice vistas from bridges around the park.

There are some cool sponsor-driven structures that add to the ambiance, like a Coca-Cola thing that looks like an angry Fortress of Solitude:

There are also a series of art installations around the grounds.

4. There Is Good Food and Food That Is Not Good

By and large, the same food available at the Park is available at most venues, and it's been uniformly good (if expectedly pricy). But I saw a few options in the Park I hadn't seen elsewhere, including something with which I was unacquainted: Salt Beef.

What is Salt Beef?

Salt Beef is, like, corned beef!

Here I was thinking that London doesn't have proper delis, and it was actually just a translation issue! Despite the fact we both speak English!

As I said, there's good food and not-so-good food.

For example … "pizza."

I've eaten a $5.64 slice of pizza. $5.64 slice of pizza is a friend of mine. You, sir, are no $5.64 slice of pizza.

(And memo to London: Ketchup is not a pasta sauce. Ever.)

And finally ...

5. The Viewing Party Is Awesome

Every day and every night, fans cram the heart of the grounds for Park Live, a British Airways-sponsored area with LED screens and a stage where athletes greet to the crowd. Fans line up to get in and watch events on the screens, with an estimated 10,000 per day taking up space on the lawn.

At night, hearing the locals go crazy for Team GB athletes in the park as a stadium full of fans are doing the same at the track championships … it's like stereophonic Olympic Spirit.

More London Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Video: Is it called England, United Kingdom or Great Britain?
London Minute video: Beauties in Usain Bolt's Olympic room revealed
Which Olympic sports are best and worst to watch on TV? Ranking all 32