Daily Digest London: Brits without tickets celebrate, security roves, NBC criticism continues

Jeff Hargarten

On the second day of Olympic competition, China continues to lead medal rankings with 11 total, six of them gold. Team USA has risen to second place with eight, winning five of those medals in swimming events at Stratford’s Aquatic Center.

Host Great Britain won its first Olympic medal of these Games today when cyclist Elizabeth Armitstead earned silver before thousands of cheering fans standing in the rain at Hyde Park Corner.

The official London 2012 website keeps up-to-date Olympic medal counts, results and news.

Olympic viewing without a ticket

Even in London, Olympic tickets are difficult to find, those appearing as available on LOCOG’s website often actually already booked. Very few last-minute visitors and London residents have successfully scored event passes since the torch lighting, a vast majority of Games tickets having been sold out weeks and months beforehand.

Most of the planet is viewing the Olympics on television or online, often on delay. However, Londoners looking for a live Olympic experience away from their couch have some options. The largest is the BT Live venue in Hyde Park, which features concerts, food and drink vendors and large television screens for watching the Games.

A free option is Victoria Park in Hackney, one of London’s host boroughs.  In the park’s center, BT has setup a smaller viewing venue about a 15-minute walk from Mile End Underground Station. There’s a bar, music stage, several places to eat and chairs and couches where crowds have collected to cheer on Team Great Britain. Tents help keep spectators’ heads dry as sporadic rains soak the city.

Cheers of jubilation erupted at Victoria Park as British cyclist Armitstead took the silver medal after crossing Hyde Park Corner’s finish line behind Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos Sunday afternoon.

Various London bars and hostels are setup for Olympic viewing parties. Generator Hostel in Russell Square has switched many of its staff’s uniforms to official London 2012 gear while its internal bars and commissary stay tuned to the events. Many pubs and nightclubs have also transformed themselves into Olympic celebration hubs throughout London.

Ever present security

Despite some controversial security hiccups prior to the Games, security checkpoints, staff and screening are ever present throughout the city.

Entering Victoria Park, while free, can involve a 15-minute bag search, pat-down and wait in gated queues before being admitted into the viewing carnival.

In Stratford’s Olympic Park, anywhere from five to 10 Olympic staffers, guards and police stand at every entrance and exit with megaphones keeping people from loitering, lingering to take photos or walking on the wrong side of staircases. Another 1,200 British troops were deployed to plug security gaps last week and can be seen on patrol all across London.

Criticism of NBC continues

American blogs, tweeters and other critics continue to complain about NBC’s editing, commentary and interruptions of Friday’ night’s Olympic opening ceremonies in Stratford.

While viewers in London experienced a live, uncut, uninterrupted spectacle, American viewers have griped about NBC’s decision to edit a tribute to the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London in favor of a Michael Phelps interview. Others have complained about the commentary offered by U.S. hosts critical of other countries during the parade of nations.

The Twitter hashtag #NBCfail has been growing in popularity since the ceremonies, along with #shutupmattlauer. Nightly News anchor Brian Williams announced the results of the men’s swimming 400 IM final without a spoiler alert before the network’s evening Olympic coverage.

NBC set a record for the opening ceremony by drawing 40.7 million viewers.