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London live sites bring the Olympics to fans

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LONDON – A thousand cheers rang out as Great Britain’s judoka Gemma Gibbons slammed her French opponent Audrey Tcheumeo to the mat in extra time to clinch the silver medal. Among those in the overjoyed crowd were members of Great Britain’s men’s judo team, London locals and international fans.

But these spectators weren’t at the ExCel Exhibition Center, where the match was held. They were sprawled out across the grounds of Hyde Park watching the excitement unfold for free on one of the park’s four giant screens.

For fans who cannot afford or found it impossible to get tickets for the Olympic Games, live sites available in around the United Kingdom, including six in London, have been sports havens, offering the general public an environment to watch games and take part in the Olympic culture without ever stepping foot inside Olympic Park.

“I love it; I love that you have somewhere to go and just sit and watch the Olympics without the hassle of having to go somewhere like a pub or bar,” said Jazmin Garcia de Leon.

Garcia de Leon, visiting the park with her husband and family to cheer on Team Mexico in a soccer match against Senegal, had caught the Mexican team in action against Switzerland in Cardiff, Wales, earlier in the week. But they enjoyed the convenience and ease of watching the game in Hyde Park just as much as being at the game.

“We went to Millennium Stadium and it was three hours trying to get there and three hours coming back. It was an exhausting day,” Garcia de Leon said.

Garcia de Leon said it took four months to get her tickets to the game and she has had no luck obtaining more.

“It’s so hard,” she said. “I’ve been looking for the last five days to get tickets and the website keeps crashing.”

At most parks, the live sites also offer activities, live entertainment and food and drink vendors.

BT London Live, in Hyde and Victoria Parks for the duration of the Olympics and Trafalgar Square Aug. 29 through Sept. 9 for the Paralympic Games, features live music from British and international acts, “Have-A-Go Sports” activities where attendees can compete in a variety of sports and visual and participatory cultural experiences.

“It’s great to come down for free, have sort of a music festival sort of vibe, plenty of places to eat, good beer and access to the games,” said London local Stuart Darden. “It would be nice to get into a game, but this is great.”

Live sites were first launched in 2008 at the Beijing Games. The London Organizing Committee has also teamed up with British Airways to offer a live site inside Olympic Park that can serve up to 10,000 fans. Community sites like those in Potter Field and Woolwich are available for fans throughout London to catch any event they choose.

With the exception of Trafalgar Square, the live sites will conclude with broadcasts of the Closing Ceremonies.