In the next two weeks, I will be visiting two Olympic venues with a group of American students – Wimbledon and the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre for the FINA Diving World Cup. I am used to negotiating the circuitous public transport route to Wimbledon with a horde of people in tow. It is a bizarre journey for out-of-towners, but an authentic Wimbledon experience necessarily entails going on a magical mystery tour to the heart of surburbia. It is no surprise that there is only one bus that serves the All England Club, and that is diverted during the Championships. It is all part of the exclusiveness that is built into the Wimbledon brand.
Getting into the Olympic Park is new to me, though, so I made sure to look up where to go. The London Prepares website informs me that I need to get to Stratford station and follow the “signs” to the Olympic Park. Another mystery journey to look forward to. I was a little perturbed by their advice to leave 70 minutes to go through security. The diving event we are going to only lasts 120 minutes. A little excessive, perhaps?
The list of prohibited items in the Olympic venues was announced late last year. The BBC said there were to be no water bottles, no food (except baby food), no alcohol … even in venues (like Wimbledon) where you are normally allowed to come fully self-catered. Rules for the diving differentiate between restricted items (allowed but not to be used as you would like) and prohibited items. There may be some confusion. You can bring in food, but can you eat it? You can keep your vuvuzela, but can you play it? Will the logos on your clothing be considered ambush marketing? Think twice maybe about wearing your Superdry jacket.
You might think sport spectating is all about letting your hair down and yelling for your team. Just as much of the experience is about standing in line to submit to surveillance and then modifying our behaviour inside the venues so they can keep us under control. But even if they take your sandwiches away, you are always free to buy some more inside the park…