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Feature: The Olympics

London Olympic Logo

The Olympic Games are almost upon us. From July 27 until August 12, athletes from 205 nations will converge in London for the world's greatest sporting event. As three-times Olympic hosts, London is guaranteed to put on a gold medal performance - from sporting excellence, to cultural festivals and live concerts, the Olympics offers something for everyone to enjoy. And for those less inclined for athletic rivalry, check out 'alternatives to the Olympics' feature for a variety of ways to escape the sporting frenzy.

No Tickets?

Not having a ticket for the Olympics, doesn't mean having to miss out on the action. If you still like to get a ticket, then don't hesitate because this is your last chance. For everyone else not concerned with being at the games, there are a variety of ways to make sure that you enjoy the world's number one sporting event.

Olympic Walks

London 2012 Olympic Park

To really get into the Olympic spirit before the games kick off, why not go on an Olympic Walk? This doesn’t mean donning your trainers, sweatband or spandex, but rather taking a leisurely tour of the area surrounding the Olympic Park as well as the other main sites of the 2012 Games. Tour Guides Ltd offers professional tours by Blue Badge accredited tour guides. The tour explores both the history of the area surrounding the Olympic Park and the transformation that London is undergoing. You will also have the opportunity to find out more about the London 2012 athletes and the long-term plans for London’s new infrastructure. For more information and to book a spot for this dynamic two-hour tour, check out tourguides2012.co.uk

Price: £9 adults, £5 children (15 and under), £7 senior or student (with a valid ID card)

Win Win Win - A London 2012 Walking Tour!!

Essential Travel in conjunction with tourguides2012.co.uk is giving away two spots on a tour of the London 2012 sites! To win, just name one of the famous London venues where the Olympic Games will be shown on big screens (hint hint: the answer is on this page).

Click to go to the competition page

Watch It Live For Free

Not having an Olympic ticket doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on all the action. The walking, cycling, triathlon and marathon races take part on the streets of London, which means that anyone can make the most of this free viewing pleasure. Head to The Mall or Box Hill to experience the best that these spectator-friendly Olympic events have to offer. Or grab a spot on the south side of The Serpentine, to witness first hand all the excitement of the swimming marathon. For more information on where to go and how to get there, check out London 2012 Maps. Remember to get there early to claim the best ‘seat’ on the street.

Watch It On Big Screens

Watch the Olympic at Hyde Park

Hyde Park and Victoria Park will be a buzz of Olympic energy for the entire duration of the Games. All medal events will be aired on giant state-of-the-art screens, with Hyde Park boasting the largest and Victoria Park ensuring a more intimate viewing experience. Both venues will also host free live music as well as other entertainment. For more information about these venues, check out the official London 2012 venue guide.

Olympic Festivals

BT River of Music, July 21 & 22

For one weekend only, the banks of the River Thames will be transformed into a musical phenomenon with free music performances representing each of the 205 nations participating in the Olympics. Between Battersea Park and London Pleasure Gardens, the Thames will be divided into six stages - Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, each celebrating a different style of music and a variety of musicians, from up-and-coming local talent to leading international artists. Tickets are free, but you need to book your free spot to ensure entrance (there is a £3 processing fee). Tickets are going fast so go to BT River of Music to make sure you don’t miss out.

London 2012 Festival, 21 June - 9 September

London 2012 Festival is the official arts festival to compliment the sporting extravanganza. It will play host to music, plays, carnivals, fashion and food - and the list goes on. 10 million people get entrance for free. With over 12 000 performances and events, there’s definitely something for everyone to enjoy. For the full festival guide, go to London 2012 Festival.

Olympics At Home, Or Your Home Away From Home

Watch the Olympics at a Pub

Enjoying the Olympics from the comfort of your own home is a good substitute for anyone not interested in being in the thick of the action. Why not organise a friendly betting pool or host a themed dinner party with a smorgasbord of international cuisine. Or head to your local pub that’s sure to have the Games on, and perhaps even some Olympics happy-hour specials to get you into the cheering spirit.

For more tips on how to spend your time in London, check out our London 24 Hour Guide.

Alternatives To The Olympics

There may be a few of us who aren't totally obsessed with the Olympics. After all, the drum has been beating for a while now. Even the Olympic officials are suggesting more flexible hours during the events. So what to do with all that extra time? If you fit into this category, we've not neglected you. Find yourself a distraction below while the world loses itself in sport.

Indulge In Some Culture

My Bed by Tracey EminArt?

Lost in the sporting reverie is the fact that Damien Hirst is showing his first major exhibition in the UK. Everyone has an opinion about whether a shark floating in a pool of formaldehyde, the installation cryptically named The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, is art. And if so, is such a thing worth the millions that Hirst sells his work for? Tracey Emin, she of the unmade bed and a contemporary of Hirst, also has an exhibit on at the Turner Contemporary to further confound or illuminate your understanding of what exactly art is.

For more information on the Damien Hirst exhibit visit www.tate.org.uk. For more on the Tracey Emin exhibit visit www.turnercontemporary.org

Rail Ale Trail

Steam train in Irwell Valley

Every pub and sports bar will inevitably have a TV tuned into the Games, with patrons eager to engage you in conversation about such and such event. If the thought of not being able to visit your local pub is too much to bear, then the Rail Ale Trail is for you. What could be better than a train trip through Irwell Valley with your favourite tipple in hand. The trail takes ale connoisseurs through the valley's tucked-away breweries on train and by foot (so you can earn that drink), with stops at the Trackside pub and Irwell Works Brewery in Ramsbottom. As the site proudly proclaims: "Every stop is a stout…or a bitter, or a mild, or a lager!"

For more information visit www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk

Go For A Run On The Isle Of Man

Isle of Man

If you can't beat them join them, right? While the world's best run in congested London, you can enjoy the fresh air and clean environment of the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man marathon, on 22 July, is the perfect excuse to exile yourself to another island completely. Unlike the bigger city marathons, this feels like an amateur event. You won't have any gazelle-like Kenyans making you feel inadequate and slow. Best of all you can rest your tired limbs in the beautiful surroundings pictured to the right. Note that entries have to be in by 9 July and spots are limited.

For more information visit www.marathon.iomvac.co.uk

Last Updated: July 2012

Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy

Having grown up in a small city at the bottom of Africa, Caitlin couldn't wait to experience more of the world's diversity. She spent the last few years living in the Emirates and Korea and sought out colour and charisma in countries such as India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. She currently lives in Cape Town, taking every opportunity to travel locally and explore the exuberance of South Africa.