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Visiting Wembley Arena – Olympics 2012 Information

BY Boon Koh
Published 28 July 2012

I had the pleasure of visiting Wembley Arena to watch some Olympics badminton this morning. It started at 8:30am – normally way too early in the morning for me on  a Saturday, given that I had to wake up at 6am to get there! But I had a thoroughly enjoyable morning there. Here are my top 5 tips if you’re attending some of the badminton or rhythmic gymnastics at the Wembley Arena (and also Wembley Stadium next door) during the London Olympics 2012.

1. Airport Style Security to enter Wembley Arena
No liquids over 100ml, so there goes the bottled water. There are lots of food outlets inside, although they are quite pricey. £2.30 for a 500ml bottle of coke inside, or £3.00 I think for an Innocent Smoothie. Not really good value for money. Security means having to have your bags and coats scanned through an x-ray machine, so bear that in mind if you’re bringing a camera or x-ray sensitive electronic equipment. Then you have to walk through an airport-style metal detector, but you don’t have to take off your shoes or belt. There was barely any queue when I arrived 10 minutes before the matches were about to start, so I wouldn’t worry about getting down to the venue very early.

2. Visa and cash are the only two accepted methods of payment
You can buy food, drinks, and the daily Olympic programme guide once inside. However, the queues for the food and drink counters were quite long the few times I tried to join, even though Wembley Arena was only at 3/4 capacity for this qualifying round of badminton matches. Plus, only cash and Visa credit or debit cards are accepted at the tills. No Mastercard or Amex unfortunately, or UnionPay. This is because Visa is the official sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics. There are vending machines for soft drinks and bottled water, but these only accept coins and Visa contactless cards (note, not swipe or chip and pin!). I also saw a small souvenir store. But don’t expect to be able to buy much else.

3. Getting to Wembley Arena by public transport
The closest tube station is Wembley Park, which has the Metropolitan and the Jubilee Line stopping at it. The quickest way from central London to Wembley Arena is to take the Metropolitan Tube Line instead of the Jubilee Tube Line, as it stops far fewer times and is an “express” service. From Wembley Park station, it is a good 10-15 minutes walk to Wembley Arena, and similar time to Wembley Stadium. There are shuttle buses from outside Wembley Park station, but it seems like they were only for people with accessibility difficulties, like the disabled.

Getting to Wembley Arena via Wembley Central is an option, but it is a much further walk (around 20-25 minutes). Although there’s a normal London bus that runs from Wembley Central to Wembley Arena, and the road in front of the Arena isn’t closed off or diverted, I think it probably is not the wise option to go that route.

4. Lack of food options around the area
If you’re not willing to be held ransom by the exorbitant food prices being charged inside Wembley Arena or Wembley Stadium, there is a lack of food options around the area. However, there are a few small Italian and Indian restaurants nearby, as well as a big McDonalds and a TGI Fridays in the Hilton Hotel next to Wembley Arena. I believe you could probably eat in the Hilton restaurants as well, although I didn’t check them out.

5. Bringing professional DSLR photography equipment inside venues
Although professional cameras are on the list of Restricted Items to bring into any Olympic games venue, I managed to get in my Canon DSLR camera into Wembley Arena without any questions, carrying it in the official Canon DSLR bag. I also a huge 18-200mm lens, and took loads of photos without anyone stopping me. Although I made sure that I didn’t use flash to distract the players, as I was sitting just a few rows from the front. Loads of other people were also using their DSLR cameras, so I think as long as its not too overly professional (like long telephoto lens and a tripod), then I think you’re OK in bringing in professional cameras into Wembley Arena.

Got any other tips for Wembley Arena, Wembley Stadium, or some of the other Olympic games venues? Let us know in the comments below!