Finding Your Olympic Venues during London 2012
The London 2012 Summer Olympics are going to see the Greater London area be busier than ever before. Along with the millions of workers that have to travel to London for their work there will be millions more commuting to London for the Olympic Games, ticket holders, tourists and other staff. For those that are not privileged enough to use the special "Olympic Car Lanes" or be booked on excursion coaches directly to the event; the prospect of travel can be daunting but a little help will set you on the right way.
Getting To The Olympics: The Right Way or the TfL Way?
Transport for London (TfL) have long been advertising the various methods of getting around the London Olympics. The London Underground has a record of 4.2 million passengers carried in a single day and this could easily be broken over the course of the Summer Olympic and Paralympic games.
Transport for London have worked with other transport agencies for their official advice website Get Ahead of The Games but people do forget that London is a very tight-knit and compact city and getting transport around the city is sometimes better than transport through it.
A lot of events are based at the specially build Olympic Park which found in Stratford, East London. For the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Stratford International station provides domestic services to St Pancras International station in Central London as well as services along HS1 to Ebbsfleet and the South East.
Commuting from the Continent
Those coming in from Europe via Eurostar are likely to be disappointed as the International platforms will be taken out of use for continental services and will instead carry the High-Speed shuttle service to and from Central London. International services will still stop at Ebbsfleet International and St Pancras International and the domestic service will still mean that a day trip for Parisian and Belgium residents can include their London 2012 events.
Dedicated Coach Network
Olympic Park ticket holders will already have heard about the dedicated coach services being provided from all areas of the county and direct to the Olympic Park site. For the Summer Olympics these will travel from as far as Leeds, Plymouth and Swansea direct to Olympic Park and for the Paralympic games from the Home Counties and South East. Some coach services will instead take Olympic Park ticket holders to Ebbsfleet International station for the short High-Speed connection.
Arriving in London by Train
For those travelling independently to London the most likely option will be to travel by train. London has a well arranged ring of London rail terminals serving a specific part of the country:
- From the North; Olympic Park visitors will arrive into Euston which is a 15 minute walk to St Pancras International (east along Euston Road), Kings Cross which is across the road (literally) from St Pancras International or St Pancras International itself.
The High-Speed rail service from St Pancras is then the most convenient and quickest way directly to Stratford for the Olympic Park - The Olympic High-Speed service will be running 24 hours a day and up to every 7 minutes during the daytime between St Pancras and Olympic Park
- For those heading from the South West or South Wales visitors will arrive into London Paddington; for those arriving on Chiltern Trains it will be Marylebone. These do not have direct London Underground links to Olympic Park and changing in Central London would not be recommended.
For those without substantial mobility problems; the option of around a 30 minute walk is possible by using the Hammersmith and City Line to West Ham and walking from there along The Greenway. Transport for London (TfL) will be providing signage from this and a number of other stations to Stratford and the Olympic Park. Those who prefer not to walk can change at West Ham for the Docklands Light Railway, which will take you directly to Stratford; this is likely to be very busy though.
- For those heading from the South and South-East; the best place to head towards is London Waterloo station. The Jubilee Line will take you directly to Stratford station for Olympic Park and although busy, offers the most viable alternative. Both Waterloo and Stratford London Underground stations promote Step-Free access.
- For those heading from Kent and East Sussex; the best place to head for is Ashford International or Ebbsfleet International. The domestic High-Speed train service will give you the best route to Stratford International and the Olympic Park. Southeastern Trains have already published their Olympic Timetable and some High Speed domestic services from Kent will run amended timetables to give extra trains to the Olympic Shuttle.
Earls Court is the venue for the Volleyball. The Venue is in West London and Transport for London estimates that during the Olympics it will take you 1 hour to get there from Central London.
There are many ways you can avoid this though by travelling either on the London Overground "Outer Circle" or District Line:
- Via Clapham Junction or Watford Junction: London Overground and Southern both run services between Clapham Junction, West Brompton and Watford Junction. Leaving the train at West Brompton, the entrance to Earls Court is well sign-posted and only a few minutes walk.
- Via Wimbledon: London Underground District Line starts from Wimbledon up to 6 times an hour
- Via Hammersmith: London Underground operate Piccadilly, District, Circle and Hammersmith & City lines to Hammersmith and Earls Court is a few minutes walk, avoiding High Street Kensington station.
Many London Bus services run to Earls Court including from Victora (C1), Clapam Junction (C3) and Baker Street (74).
ExCeL is located in London's Docklands and will be hosting the Boxing, wrestling and Martial Arts elements of the London 2012 Olympic Games. There are 5 different arenas that are hosting events at this venue and crowds are expected to be busy; but there are lots of different ways to get to the arena, by tube, boat and the new Emirates Air Line.
For anyone wanting to travel to ExCeL using the new Emirate Air Line the nearest tube station is North Greenwich on the Jubilee Line. This is a good connection for those travelling from South and South West London but avoiding the very busy Bank Underground Station. There are also river bus services from Embankment to North Greenwich Pier throughout the day and a dedicated Olympic Express planned from Waterloo Pier to North Greenwich, using the Thames Clipper service - a novel way to explore the Thames and its riverbanks.
Those travelling from the north and west London terminals are advised by Transport for London to travel to Bank by Underground for Docklands Light Railway services, the recommended terminals being Custom House or West Silverton.
The North Greenwich Arena
(The Venue Formerly known as the Millenium Dome and the O2 Arena)
The North Greenwich Arena can be accessed directly by Underground, Water and even Air for its Gymnastics, Trampoline or Basketball. The problem with the North Greenwich Arena, also known as the O2 Arena and the Millennium Dome; is that it is going to be on all the novel and busy routes for Olympic ticket holders and tourists alike.
Visitors from Waterloo, Victoria and Charing Cross terminals should head to Waterloo or Embankment and join the Jubilee Line. This is likely to be very busy and it would be expected that not everyone on the platform will get onto every train first time, as well as the option of the river bus service from Waterloo Pier and Embankment Pier. Those preferring a top-deck experience might prefer to catch the Transport for London 188 bus from Waterloo direct to the North Greenwich bus station.
Visitors from Paddington or Marylebone terminals should think about heading on the many lines that run to Baker Street for the Jubilee Line; where those from Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross are going to be heading on the Bank Branch of the Northern Line to a packed London Bridge; again to change onto the Jubilee Line. An alternative for those travelling from the North and West of the city and wanting to sample the Emirate Air Line would be to travel to Royal Victoria on the Docklands Light Railway, getting to that via Bank.
Either way, both London Bridge and Bank are going to be especially busy.
Hyde Park & The Mall
The London 2012 Triathlon will be held at Hyde Park and The Mall will be hosting the start and finish of the road races; the Marathon and Race Walking. Both are very close together and travelling to them have very similar methods.
Green Park is your access friendly Jubilee Line Underground station. This offers direct walking routes to both Hyde Park and the Mall and will be clearly signposted and assisted. In terms of Mainline rail terminals, the events are in easy waking distance of both Victoria (Southern and Southeastern Trains) and Paddington (First Great Western and Heathrow Express) train stations.
Access to the Hyde Park ticket holders is within Hyde Park on the eastern end of The Serpentine Lake. For those visitors knowing Hyde Park, the bridge over the lake will be closed for the duration of event days preventing any sneaky free viewing.
Access to The Mall for ticket holders will be through three different access points. There will be two access gates for The Mall South in St James Park, which is accessible from Victoria Station and St James Park Underground Station. The Mall North will be adjacent to St James Palace and accessible from Green Park Underground Station.
Note: The Mall is closed in its entirety from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square for three months for the Olympics and chaos will surround the immediate area. Many exits on the north side of St James Park are also closed and to head north from The Mall South you will have to walk to Buckingham Palace and through Green Park.
Lord's Cricket Ground
A far cry from its packed Cricket afternoons, the Archery at Lord's Cricket Ground will be a relaitvely minor affair with just 6500 tickets available for each of the 5 days it runs. The Marylebone based cricket club is a short walk from St Johns Wood (Jubilee Line) London Underground station as well as Marylebone station for Chiltern Trains services.
Wembley Arena & Stadium
Whether you are going to see a football match at the stadium, or the badminton and gymnastics at the arena; just the name Wembley is enough to tempt sports, music or television lovers from all around the country.
Both event locations are close to each other and are a short walk from many of the local mainline and undergrounds stations.
Wembley Central is the primary mainline location and is on the West Coast Mainline. Services are run by Virgin Trains (to and from Birmingham New Street), London Midland (London Euston, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Birmingham New Street), Southern (Croydon, Clapham Junction), London Overground (London Euston, Watford Junction) and London Underground (Bakerloo Line).
Wembley Stadium is one of the calling points for Chiltern Railway services between Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill.
Wembley Park is a London Underground station served by Metropolitan and Jubilee Line services.
Completely Avoid London
Unless you are travelling from East Anglia or Kent; there are options for anyone who wants to avoid London completely when travelling to Wembley. South West Trains and Southern rail users can head to Clapham Junction and travel on the Southern service towards Milton Keynes. Buying tickets for routes "NOT LONDON" or "VIA KENSINGTON OLYMPIA" are much cheaper than tickets via London (or Any Permitted).
For those visitors that are coming from Birmingham the Chiltern Trains service might take a little bit longer, but it is usually much quieter, cheaper and the service a slightly higher specification. If you have to come via Virgin Trains then be aware that not all trains stop at Wembley and you might have to change at Milton Keynes Central or Watford Junction.
Fresh from The Championships, the All England Tennis Club at Wimbledon will then be quickly turned around ready for the Olympic tennis tournaments. If you are heading to Henman Hill for some strawberries and cream or Murray's Mound for some champagne then getting to Wimbledon will be much easier as the tennis championships give an annual test for just such a world wide event.
Most will not be travelling to Wimbeldon just to picnic on Aorangi Terrace, so leaving the wicker basket at home is a good idea for the walk from either Wimbledon mainline railway station or Southfields Underground Station.
From The North and West
Visitors coming from the north or west of London (mainline terminals: St Pancras, Kings Cross, Euston, Marylebone, Paddington) should use the London Underground system to head towards Southfields. Thankfully you can avoid the hugely overcrowded Jubilee Line and use the Circle Line and District Line.
From St Pancras, Kings Cross & Euston (Use Euston Square, not the Underground Station in Euston Station); you should use:
Circle Line (towards Hammersmith) to Edgware Road
District Line to Earls Court
District Line (towards Wimbledon) to Southfields
From Marylebone & Paddington you join the District Line directly
There is a defined walking route from Southfields to Wimbledon, where access will be availabe to ticket holders through the All England Tennis Club Gates 1, 4, 5 and 7.
Visitors arriving into St Pancras might also want to consider the First Capital Connect services which run from St Pancras to Wimbledon. These use underground tunnels through Central London so are expected to be very busy.
From The South and East
Wimbledon's mainline railway station is located on the South Western Mainline. South West Trains offer an intensive service to this station to and from London Waterloo; as well as services from Surbiton & Epsom.
Mainline train services run from Clapham Junction on South West Trains and Elephant & Castle, Tulse Hill and Sutton on First Capital Connect which offers a huge number of options along the South East commuter belt. Olympic ticket holders coming in on South Eastern should head towards London Waterloo East on the Charing Cross line to connect with South West Trains services.
There are some very important tips for how not to travel in London during the Olympics. These are because most days will still be normal working days in the capital and are already busy:
- Travel Direct: If you change trains a number of times to avoid busy services this will have a knock on effect and space on trains will be wasted.
- Avoid the Jubilee Line: Unless you are coming into London via Waterloo. On a normal day Waterloo handles over 50,000 passengers, this could double during the Olympics.
- Avoid Changing in Central London: Unless you have sadistic tendencies or are feeling kamokazee, avoid changing at the following London Underground stations: Bond Street, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Bank, Mile End, Liverpool Street, Canning Town, Canada Water. Especially do not try changing onto the Central Line.
- Avoid changing at West Ham: The Jubilee and Docklands Light Railway are already going to be exceptionally busy. The walking route from West Ham is driect along The Greenway and takes about 30 minutes.