The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics promise to be the sporting spectacles of the year, as the entire world sets its eyes on Londonfrom the beginning of the opening ceremony right through to the end of the closing party. Although it’s going to be broadcast on TV and radio, I think if you really want to get an idea of the magic of the Olympics it’s worth booking a stay in a London hotel so you can take a tour of the numerous venues that will host the competitions.
Most of the arenas are situated within the Olympic Park, a 2.5 sq km development in the east of the city, so going from one to the next should be fairly easy. You can travel around them independently, although it may be an idea to book a place on a guided tour or download the official Games podcast first so you can learn more about how the park has developed from being unused industrial land to the location of world-class sporting venues as you walk.
While there are many to choose from, I think the following venues should certainly be on your list of places to see.
Situated to the south of the Olympic Park and surrounded by waterways on three sides, the Olympic Stadium will be at the heart of the 2012 Games. Not only will it be the location of the opening and closing ceremonies, but it’s also set to host the athletics events for both the Olympics and Paralympics. With over 200 competitions taking place, it’s in this venue that some of the world’s most famous athletes – including Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis – will perform.
However, it’s an exciting place to see even before the Olympics begin and, as part of the commitment to this year’s games being highly sustainable, recycled materials have featured heavily in its construction. The distinctive top ring was built from surplus gas pipes, while the low-carbon concrete was produced using industrial waste.
Given its name, it’ll be no surprise that the Basketball Arena will be where the stars of international basketball – such as Kobe Bryant and Team GB’s Luol Deng – will strut their stuff. However, the venue is also going to be used for handball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby events.
The arena’s 1,000 tonne steel frame and imposing white exterior will be hard to miss on your tour but, as it’s going to be dismantled once the sporting spectacle is over, it won’t be around forever. In fact, it holds the distinction of being one of the largest-ever temporary venues built for any Olympics.
It’s probably one of the most unusually named venues in Olympic history – does anyone remember the Beijing Stadium of the 2008 Games being referred to as the Bird’s Nest? – but the Copper Box’s title is an accurate one, as it consists of more than 3,000 sq m of external copper cladding.
In line with this year’s sustainability theme, most of this material comes from recycled sources and over time it’ll age to develop a rich natural brown. Handball, goalball and the fencing element of the modern pentathlon will all take place here, although when the Games are over it’ll be converted into a multipurpose sports centre, capable of hosting boxing, martial arts and netball matches.
These are just a few of the venues that will see Olympic and Paralympic action this summer – Earls Court is going to host volleyball, while Wembley Stadium is among the grounds which football will be played at – but what places are you most excited about seeing? Leave a comment and let us know!