Travel Destinations

With just under 200 days to go until the Paralympics event, the countdown for the London Olympic Games is well and truly underway. But what if you missed out on tickets? Happily, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the spirit of the games – from afar or for free. has the insider guide

No ticket? No problem – Check out FREE events

While most events are ticketed, it’s still possible to get in on the action for free. As with everything Olympic related, it’s advisable to arrive well in advance for the best seats. Here’s a sampling of some of the free events:

Men’s and Women’s individual road cycling time trials: taking place on August 1, the starting point is Richmond’s Hampton Court Palace
Men’s Marathon: taking place in central London on August 5
Women’s Marathon: taking place in central London on August 12
Women’s Triathlon: taking place on August 4 (crossing through Hyde Park and Birdcage Walk, Buckingham Palace)
Men’s Triathlon: taking place on August 7

Escape the crowds: Skip London altogether

Try events taking place outside of London to avoid the crowds and save the pennies. Some venues, such as those for mountain biking, kayaking, rowing, and canoeing are a mere 20-50km away. For those venturing further afield, Wales, Scotland, and spots along UK coastline will also be hosting Olympic events. Football tournaments (in Manchester, Coventry, Glasgow, Newcastle, and Cardiff) and sailing events (in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbor) will make for a good staycation or quick weekend break.

Follow the torch

Though the torch relay is staying within the UK, as opposed to taking the usual international route, the destinations lucky enough to receive it are still very much worth a visit. The tradition kicks off against a spectacular backdrop in Land’s End on 19 May. By the start of June, the flame will burn through Belfast and Northern Ireland, then to Edinburgh and Scotland by mid-month. The torch will reach the Olympic Stadium on the 70th day – 27 July.

Join the crowds

Immerse yourself in the buzz at the London live sites. From the big three locations in the capital – Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and Victoria Park – to the 20-plus other locations across the UK, there will be big-screen viewings of medal ceremonies and competitions, free concerts and contests – all designed to include locals and visitors alike in the Olympic experience as it unfolds.

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Travel Destinations

Last week I waxed lyrical about London. The capital, I declared, had entered the most extraordinary and exciting year, with the Olympic and Paralympic Games guaranteeing a summer like no other. Factor in a cornucopia of cultural events like the Lucien Freud exhibition and next month’s London Fashion Show and it’s safe to say that I was definitely looking forward to being a Londoner in 2012.

A mere seven days later and my enthusiasm has waned. Why? Take a bow Mr. Norman Baker. The government’s Minister for Transport has told Londoners to “work from home” during the Olympics or else, he warns, “the transport system won’t cope.” Meanwhile one Mark Evans, the Director of Games (Transport) – I have no idea what this is either – has requested that local business cut out one in three journeys.

As a Londoner, I was happy to put my hands in my pocket and pay the majority of the Olympic bill because I presumed I would get to experience a once in a lifetime event. You can imagine my anger to learn that not only will we Londoners be forced to foot more of the Olympic bill than other Englanders (not to mention the Scots and Welsh) but we are being urged to watch Jessica Ennis et al – on television.

Perhaps I am suffering from amnesia but I don’t recollect Lord Coe and his colleagues told us, or the IOC, this during London’s final presentation in Singapore back in July 2005. Quite the contrary: I am quite sure that Seb Coe said that the London Underground would be updated so as to be able to cope with the crowds. The underground service seems to be interrupted without fail every weekend (don’t even get me started on the epic and expensive six-hour round trip I endured on Sunday) but I have yet to see any real improvements.

Someone needs to sort it out soon – and not just for long-suffering Londoners, but for tourists too. When Britain won the right to host the Olympics, ministers promised that the Games would lift tourist trade later in the year. However, I can’t see how images of crowded tubes and gridlocked streets will encourage visitors to come to the capital.

The bottom line? 2012 may be the year of the Games but the jury is still out on whether it will be a year of fun as well.

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