A couple months ago when I got the “Olympics Bug”, the real catalyst was wanting to see a gymnastics event. I grew up obsessed with Olympic gymnastics, and the prospect of being able to see an event in person became too strong a pull to resist. I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase a gymnastics ticket from the official ticket source for the USA at face value (plus a semi-reasonable service fee).
The event for which I was able to secure a ticket was the event finals for the uneven bars, vault, and rings. In a perfect world I would have preferred the team finals or the all around final, but that is splitting hairs as this event was still spectacular. The morning of the event I tried to go to Olympic Park before making my way to the gymnastics event at North Greenwich Arena, but that didn’t quite work out. That temporary disappointment was quickly erased as I approached the exit for the North Greenwich Tube Station with tons of other spectators-to-be. You could feel the excitement of the whole group.
Just like the rest of London, the entire area was very well signed for the event. There was virtually no question about which way to go. To get into the event you had to first go through security that included many of the same security rules as airports. I was a bit bummed to give up the bottle of water I had recently purchased, but it was a small price to pay for entrance to the most exciting Olympic event!
Once inside the arena there was an area to purchase souvenirs. I snagged up an Olympic Gymnastics shirt for my kiddo and an Olympic Gymnastics pin set for myself and for one of you (more on that in another post). Allegedly you can only purchase those at the venues themselves, so it should be pretty neat for a gymnastics fan like me! They aren’t kidding that at the Olympics only Visas (and cash) are accepted. Thanks goodness again for my Sapphire Preferred!
The seats I had to the event were absolutely spectacular. I was sitting next to a very nice lady from Phoenix who according to her is “in the world of gymnastics” and a couple from London who were very excited to see the hometown favorite gymnast, Beth, compete. Everyone was so friendly and seemingly appreciative to be there. The lady next to me from Phoenix had a friend in London secure the ticket for her using her UK address.
Before the event started there was a dramatic performance with lights and sounds using some (non-Olympic) gymnasts doing some brief dramatic performances. It was a great way to get the crowd into the event. When the judges march in and out there is also dramatic music. The whole thing is really one big spectacle. Naturally when the athletes march in there is a huge amount of excitement from the crowd as well!
What I found to be really neat is that the athletes have their friends/coaches/teammates taking pictures for them using their iPhones or other small cameras just like most of the crowd was doing! During the performances there is an announcer who is basically giving the play-by-play over the loudspeaker. The announcers would describe the different moves the gymnasts were doing and give some insight into the scoring system. It wasn’t as detailed as if you were watching the commentators on TV, but it was still very helpful.
One thing I was surprised about was that they had a medal ceremony after each event. I always figured they waited until the end of the competition and then did all of them at once, but instead they stopped everything and lowered the medal platform from the ceiling, marched in the military personnel with the flags from the winning countries, etc. It was really awesome to see athletes get gold medals put around their necks. It would have been fantastic to watch the US get a medal, but it wasn’t meant to be on this day. Seeing the stadium go nuts for the medal that Team Great Britain won was pretty fantastic.
When you see gymnastics of this caliber in person, it is impressive to notice how high in the air the gymnasts really are flying. This was especially true for the men’s vault competition. We were the closest to this apparatus, so it was pretty easy to get a good view of how high they soar!
Admittedly my recount of the vent is probably quite poor in relation to the actual experience, but I was trying to really just soak it all in. It was such a memorable experience, but it’s a memory that is sort of hard to break down into words since it was memorable more on an emotional level. There were many children in the range of 6-10 years in attendance, so I really can’t wait to take my daughter to Rio in four years to watch a similar event in person…hopefully. If this was my one and only time to see Olympic gymnastics in person then that is okay as well. It was simply fantastic.