Watching Bolt in Style

Nothing beats the experience of being in an Olympic stadium or arena—despite the airport-style security queues, the £10 spent on Cornish pasties and a Coke or two, and indignity of being herded on to trains when the event is over. (At every event I’ve been to, people leave early to avoid the rush—at a run-of-the-mill sporting event, I can see the point, but I’m not giving up a single minute of an Olympic event for a little convenience).

If you didn’t have tickets for events these last two weeks, a second-best option was watching events on the large outdoor screens in parks and town squares across the U.K. And there was always a good rowdy pub. You could have even watched the BBC coverage in cinemas across the country, if you were looking for that “main event” feeling.

Of course, given the choice, watching the event live and in person is the best. That’s why thousands have lined the routes of the road events: road cycling, triathlons, and marathons—these are non-ticketed events and provide that chance to get up close and personal. Of course, you needed to be early and patient to scope out a good spot in the crowd, and the pay-off is usually short and fast—especially if you’re on the cycling route.

After a week or so of doing all of the above, I took advantage of yet another option. The economy has been hard on London, especially the tourism industry, so there are some great deals to be had, if you look for them. After finding and enjoying a two-for-one deal this spring at the posh Tiger Brasserie at the Green Park Hilton, my friend was given a “2nd visit” voucher for the same deal, which he kindly saved for my visit.

So, on “Super Sunday,” we took a break from the Olympics to enjoy a three-course meal (including cocktail and coffee) in the exclusive neighborhood of Mayfair—north of Buckingham Palace and east of Hyde Park—in a hotel we could never afford to stay in. And, in a surprise twist, the host was genuinely happy to see us, so much so that he gave us more vouchers at the end of the meal.

Unsurprisingly, the meal was fantastic. But it couldn’t break the Olympics spell completely, and conscious of the time, we were happy to find that the hotel bar had the Olympics on its two TVs. So, after a delicious and enjoyable meal, we retired to the mostly empty hotel bar just in time to see Usain Bolt make history.

Posh drinks in hand, we secured the best TV-viewing seats in the bar just before more hotel guests filed in to see the men’s 100-metre final—the finale to the busiest weekend of the Olympics. It was all wonderfully civilized, in a 4-star kind of way.

The two-for-one voucher didn’t exactly make for a cheap meal—but given the cost of Olympics tickets in general, and the astronomical cost of Athletics tickets, it was an absolute deal and a memorable way to see the historic race. And of course, the food was astronomically better than stadium food!

This post originally appeared on Travel + Escape.