Planning a trip to the London 2012 Olympics? Lucky you. Below are tips from Alan Noone, head concierge of five-star luxury hotel The Berkeley, on how you can ensure your stay in London this summer a great one.
1. Plan ahead—for everything.
It's not just your flight and event-specific tickets you should buy in advance. Book everything— from lodging to theater tickets—now. "August is normally a quiet month for us," says Noone. "This year, we've seen a 30 percent increase in demand for rooms."
2. Consider events outside of Olympic Park.
To avoid the expected congestion at Olympic Park, Noone suggests attending events happening at other venues. "The archery events are being held at Lord's Cricket Ground, which has been hosting sporting events since 1814," he says. The Tube will drop you off 10 minutes' walk from the venue; consider walking the Jubilee Greenway, which passes by several other Games venues.
Tennis, of course, is being hosted at Wimbledon in southwest London. Or check out beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade, a venue in Central London dating back to 1745.
3. Take a river bus!
River taxis offer a great way to get to your Olympics venue, since several are accessible by river, including Greenwich Park (equestrian and modern pentathlon), North Greenwich Arena (basketball, artistic gymnastics and trampoline), The Royal Artillery Barracks (shooting), Horse Guards Parade (beach volleyball) and Eton Dorney (canoe sprint and rowing).
"I would suggest booking a place on Water Chariots' Silver Service, which takes just 40 minutes from Limehouse Marina to an exclusive Olympic entrance at Old Ford Locsk," Noone recommends. "You'll be able to enjoy a glass of champagne in the quayside reception lounges before you board. Then you can relax as you cruise past the sights, taking in an unrivalled view as you approach the Olympic Park!"
4. Attend non-sporting events.
London is hosting a huge selection of events, from the production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at The Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, to the Tate Modern presentation of the first major Damien Hirst exhibition in the UK.
"The Royal Albert Hall is presenting the world-famous BBC Proms annual classical music festival," Noone says. "And guests with families will love the Warner Brothers' studio tour of 'The Making of Harry Potter,' which has been really popular all year."
But if you're Olympics-bound, don't forget the basics:
5. Don't plan to drive anywhere. We're not kidding.
According to Noone, "the main thing to bear in mind is that the London Olympics aim to be the 'greenest' Games yet." That's his polite way of saying public transportation will be about the only way to get to events. And possibly the best: a high-speed Olympic Javelin train will whisk ticket holders from St. Pancras International station to Stratford International in just 7 minutes.
Your concierge can make taking the train or Tube relatively stress-free. "We can provide guests with tickets for the Javelin train or passes for the Tube," Noone says. "We can even drop you off at the station in a chauffeur-driving luxury automobile."
"Driving from Central London to Olympic Park could take you up to 2 hours," says Noone. "Our chauffeur service could drop you off at the Western Gate, but you would still have to walk nearly a mile to the stadium."
That's partially because of the Olympic Route Network (ORN), which connects all Games venues. One-third of ORN roads are designated "Games Lanes" restricted to the IOC's fleet of 1,500 coaches and 4,000 specially-marked BMWs, for athletes and members of the "Olympic Family."
7. Allow plenty of time to get to your event.
"You should plan to arrive at your event well in advance of its start time, maybe even one to two hours ahead" counsels Noone. "Expect to encounter airport-like security."
There's absolutely no parking at any of the venues, except for limited spaces that must be booked in advance.
If all of this sounds like a challenge, don't worry. An experienced concierge like Noone will work with you to take care of the details, so you can enjoy yourself without worrying about logistics. After all, if Noone can arrange for a live snake to be delivered to a guest for a wedding proposal (seriously!), he can probably make your London 2012 Olympics stay one you'll never forget.