London: The Olympic City
After £12 billion and seven years preparing for the Summer Olympic & Paralympic Games, the London 2012 Olympics will present 32 stunning venues throughout the city – from the ultra modern to the historic transformed. A high speed Javelin train and a brand new Thames Cable Car will greet millions of visitors and a multi billion global TV audience.
When the 2012 Olympics begin – with a lavish Opening Ceremony by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle – on Friday 27th July, London will become the first and only city in the world to host the modern Olympic Games three times, following previous Olympics in 1908 and 1948. But the 2012 Olympics in London are unlike any previous Olympics because of the city hosting them. No spectator in central London will ever be more than 30 minutes away from an Olympic venue, with some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks acting as stunning backdrops for the greatest sporting show on earth. The illustrated map, created by LondonTown.com shows how the Olympics have brought together well known London visitor attractions and new sporting venues not only in East London but throughout the city. The thoughtful juxtaposition of new sporting arenas alongside historic sites will be the true hallmark of the 2012 Olympics as the whole city opens itself up to 805 different sporting events.
In many respects the Games are coming home. Leaving aside the fact that the British invented a huge number of sports, from table tennis (or ‘whiff-whaff’) to rugby, there are even more significant ways in which British history is connected to the origins of the Olympics. French educator Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, credited the Much Wenlock Games in the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock (after which one of the Olympic mascots is named) which he visited in 1890 as the birthplace of the Games. The second mascot, Mandeville, is a reminder of the British origins of the Paralympic Games which can be traced back to the Stoke Mandeville Games for wheelchair athletes, first held in the Buckinghamshire village in 1948.
Venues with a Heritage
In the 17 days in which the Olympics are played out, 10,500 Olympic athletes from 204 nations will compete in 32 stunning venues in and around London, many of which are centuries old.
The 18th century Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich has been a military and weaponry base of national importance for hundreds of years making it a wonderfully fitting venue to host all three shooting events: rifle, pistol and shotgun. The three temporary tent-like indoor structures feature striking and brightly coloured ‘bullet holes’ which look as though the competitors within missed their targets – though in reality are there for ventilation.
In Central London, Horse Guards Parade, the parade ground of mounted military ceremonies since 1745, is transformed (through 5,000 tonnes of sand) into the Olympic venue for the beach volleyball competition. Around the corner, The Mall, which runs from Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square to the Queen’s London residence, Buckingham Palace is the start and finish point for road cycling, race walk and marathon races, sections of which pass some of London’s most iconic sights including the Tower of London and Houses of Parliament and are free to spectators.
South-west of London, Hampton Court Palace, the oldest surviving Tudor palace and home to some of Britain’s most famous kings and queens – most notably the colourful Henry VIII, a keen sportsman in his youth – will provide a stunning backdrop for the time trials segment of the road cycling competition as riders set off from the driveway to the palace.
Even relatively new London venues like the North Greenwich Arena (usually called The O2 Arena) boast architectural design worthy of note. The distinctive round structure, designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Richard Rogers (Lloyds of London building, Pompidou Centre, London Heathrow Terminal 5), features 12 masts – one for each month of the year, hour of the day and constellation of the sky – and has a 365 metre diameter representing each day of the year, a reflection of its location on the Meridian Line, the point where east meets west. Nearby Greenwich Park, the oldest of London’s Royal Parks and the centrepiece of Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the Olympic and Paralympic equestrian events. The site includes The Queen’s House (by Inigo Jones), the first Palladian building in England, the Royal Naval College and the Royal Observatory, both designed by Christopher Wren who was also responsible for the great dome design of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Other Olympic venues within the city include the well-known Earls Court Exhibition Centre in west London which hosts the volleyball – the current structure has been a popular location for staging large scale events since 1937; and Wembley Arena (badminton and rhythmic gymnastics) which sits opposite Wembley Stadium, one of the famous sporting arenas to be used during the Games. Equally well known are Old Trafford in Manchester (football), the All England Club at Wimbledon (tennis) and Lord’s Cricket Ground (archery), both in London.
The Olympic Park
The beating heart of the London Games is the brand-new £6.8 billion Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, the 2.5 sq km site of 9 major sporting venues including: the Zaha Hadid designed Aquatics Centre (the largest venue with capacity for 17,500 spectators); the Velodrome, one of the most iconic buildings in the Olympic Park with its curved ‘Pringle’-shaped roof and 360-degree glass wall; the Copper Box Handball Arena; Eton Manor; BMX Track; Water Polo Arena; Basketball Arena; Riverbank Hockey Arena; and the state-of-the-art Olympic Stadium. Added to these are art installations, landscaped parkland and the Athletes Village.
Some new structures within the Olympic Park stand out not as sporting venues but as eye-catching attractions. Most striking is the 115m tall red lattice steel ArcelorMittal Orbit, the UK’s largest sculpture which was designed by Anish Kapoor and provides spectators with wonderful views.
There have been new additions to London’s transport infrastructure especially for the Olympics, the most speed efficient of which is the ‘Olympic Javelin Train’ linking Central London’s St. Pancras Station with the Olympic Park at London Stratford International Station. The journey will take just 6 minutes and 45 seconds on the 140mph service that will run for the duration of the Games. 25,000 travellers can use the eight Javelin trains which run per hour, departing from the same station in Central London as the Eurostar train that brings passengers to London from mainland Europe. There are 29 six-carriage ‘Javelin Trains’ in service, all named after famous Olympians such as Lord Sebastian Coe and Tanni Grey-Thompson. The trains actually run between St Pancras and Ebbsfleet International, stopping at Stratford International on the way.
Another new addition to the London transport system for the Olympics is the Thames Cable Car which connects two Olympic venues that would otherwise be separated by the River Thames. The 1km cable car crossing from the ExCel Centre north side will take just 5 minutes to reach the North Greenwich Arena (O2) south side. Gondolas will arrive every 30 seconds and allow up to 2,500 passengers an hour (the equivalent of 50 red double-decker buses) in each direction, to cross the river with remarkable panoramic views of the Olympic Park, Greenwich and the London Docklands.
Venues a short journey from the city centre
A short train or bus journey will take spectators to various venues within touching distance of the city centre. West of London, near Windsor, lies Eton Dorney (rowing and canoe sprint) and the historic Hampton Court Palace (cycling time trial). The cycling road race riders travel from central London to Box Hill in Surrey. Just 30km north of the Olympic Park is the brand-new £31m Lee Valley White Water Centre (canoe slalom) while the rural Hadleigh Farm, east of London, will host the mountain bike events. Further south, 40km outside London, the renowned motor racing venue Brands Hatch will host Paralympic road cycling.
Venues outside London
While the 2012 Olympics are primarily the toast of London, events are taking place all over the UK. Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour, on the beautiful Dorset coast in the south of England, host the sailing competitions, while football preliminaries and early knock-out games will take place in various stadia, including Old Trafford (home of Manchester United), Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
About the London Olympic Venues diagram
This map showing the London Olympic venues was created by the team at LondonTown.com, in particular by Katherine Baxter and Steven Potter. LondonTown.com, the consumer website of LondonMarketing, has 18 years experience assisting business and leisure visitors to London.
Diagram key: All coloured buildings in the diagram are actual London Olympic Venues, with famous landmarks illustrated in grey to assist with orientation.
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