TODAY IS THE DAY! After years of moaning, groaning, hype and hope, the London 2012 Olympic Games will kick off in spectacular fashion with Danny Boyle’s £27 million opening ceremony. Though a few preliminary events like the football and archery have already kicked off, tonight marks the official start of the games.
Today also sees us roll out the fifth and final instalment in our Tech Digest Tech Pentathlon series. So far we’ve looked at how best to work from home during the games, which are the best apps to download, which Olympic-themed gadgets to check out and some of the ways that you can stream the games online.
We turn our attention today to those who will be visiting London during the games. The capital is set to be even more manic than it usually is, and this guide should hopefully get your trip off on the right foot with some tech-savvy suggestions to make your trip a little easier.
If you’ve got a smartphone and you’re heading into London for the games, BRING IT WITH YOU. There are plenty of excellent apps dedicated to getting the most out of a trip to London.
For starters, iPhone users will want to pick up the London Transport, London Bus live Countdown and London Tube Map And Guide apps, which combined give you all the information you could possibly need about using London’s public transport system. For a similar selection for Android users, grab London Tube Status, London Travel and London Underground Free from the Google Play store. With that lot downloaded you’ll be able to confidently travel around the capital.
In terms of keeping track of what’s happening at the games themselves, check out our round up from a few days ago. You’ll definitely be wanting the Official London 2012 Results aps to keep track of medals and schedules, and Curly’s Pocket Guide To Sports which offers all the event rules at the very least.
Looking for things to do in London? You can’t go wrong with the Time Out apps for iPhone and iPad, while anyone with a decent mobile web browser can check out www.timista.com for personalised recommendations based on time, location and size of your party. Struggling to get where you need to be? Try the Get Taxi app for booking a cheap ride, available on iPhone and Android.
If you’re looking for a good read about some of London’s hidden gems, check out The London Project, which some of the Tech Digest team had a hand in helping to write. It’s available for free through Apple’s iBooks app, and costs £2.05 on Kindle.
Right, we’re assuming above that you’ve already brought your smartphone with you. So check that off the check-list you’re making (you have been marking all those apps down on a checklist, right?). So let’s move onto another essential then: cameras. Again, we’re going to assume you’ve already got a camera too, but are you aware of the restrictions in place on what sorts of camera you can bring to the stadiums? The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) state that:
“You are allowed to take camera phones, compact cameras and DSLRs into Olympic and Paralympic venues, as long as the equipment fits into a bag no bigger than 30 x 20 x 20cm. Anything above this may be confiscated and not necessarily returned to you.”
In other words, leave your crazy-expensive DSLR zoom lenses at home, unless you want to potentially leave them forever. The same goes for tripods and massive boom mics (though why you’d bring a boom mic with you is beyond us. A few popular DSLR cameras that fit into the guidelines include the Nikon D4, Nikon D800, Canon 1DX and Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Compact cameras and bridge cameras should be fine, as well as camera phones obviously.
Some of you may have come a long way, and lengthy trips in planes, trains and automobiles aren’t always the most comfy of journeys. Grab an official London 2012 Neck Pillow (yes, an officially branded Olympic neck pillow, we kid you not) for £12.99 from John Lewis, while the Yondi Kids Travel Pillow (£11.19) from Firebox will give you five minutes peace while the kids grab 40 winks.
If you’re worried about keeping you gadgets pumped full of charge, the £119.99 PowerMoney Extreme backup battery pulls in solar power keeping your tech energised even when away from a charging socket. If you don’t trust Britain’s ability to deliver the sunshine (and that’s a totally reasonable worry), a Mophie Juice Pack Air will wrap around your iPhone for an added power boost. If you’re an international visitor, grab a USB wall charger too; this £14.99 one from WH Smiths lets you power three USB powered gadgets at once.
WHERE TO STAY, WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO EAT
If you’re reading Tech Digest (which you must be currently, right?) you must be a bit of a tech geek. The Zetter Hotel is THE place to stay in London offering all guests a giant video and music on demand catalogue, free room Wi-Fi, DVD and CD players, flatscreen TVs, iPod docks and digital radios. It’s situated in the Clerkenwell area and rooms start at £180 a night. Alternatively check out Rafayel on the Left Bank in Battersea, where rooms come with a media hub for hooking up laptops, cameras, tablets and more, with the option of renting a games console for your room too. Rooms there start at £120 a night.
All self-confessed geeks owe themselves a pilgrimage style trip to the London Science Museum, jammed full of incredible scientific and technological innovations from across the ages. We’d recommend the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park usually too, but that’s being closed for the duration of the games while the equestrian events take place there. Bummer, but stargazers should keep it in mind for their next trip!
For tech shopping, head to Tottenham Court Road, specifically the end near northern Oxford Street. It’s shop after shop of gadget bargains from branded retail outlets to resellers. Highlights include YoYoTech which is great for PC builders, and CEX, the world’s best shop for picking up second hand games and gadgetry. Forbidden Planet, just off of Shaftesbury Avenue, is comic-book and fantasy geek Valhalla too, with floor to ceiling graphic novels and cult movie memorabilia.
If it’s architectural and engineering feats that float your boat, we’d suggest visits to The London Eye (for birds eye views of the capital), The Shard (to stand below it and look up at Europe’s tallest building, enough to give you both vertigo and a glimpse at a Bladerunner-like future , The Thames Barrier (for an engineering marvel that keeps the capital safe from annual flooding), The Emirates Air Line Cable Car (for a slightly scary sky-high journey across the Thames) and The O2 Arena (AKA The Millennium Dome, which now offers walks across its tall curved roof).
When it comes to grabbing some grub, we’ve got just two words for you: MEAT LIQOUR. Just off of Regent’s Street, it’s exactly what it sounds like, a place where meat is piled high and alcohol flows free, with a whole mad hillbilly nightclub vibe going on. You can’t book ahead, so expect to have to queue. It’s worth it though. If that sounds a bit too full-on for your taste, head over to Inamo in Soho, which has serves oriental food and uses futuristic touchscreen table-top menus to order your food on.