To celebrate 500 days to go until London 2012 gets under way we’ve put together a record-breaking top 10 of our favourite UK Olympic and Paralympic Venues. You can visit many of them before the Games to discover Britain’s sporting heritage, take a tour or get involved in sport yourself. To find more about getting tickets for the Games, check the 2012 website.
Olympic Park, East London
The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics may still be a little way away, but work is well under way at the Olympic Park in East London. The site includes the already iconic 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium, the graceful Aquatics Centre and the Velodrome. If you’d like to see the site’s dramatic transformation in progress, you can take a tour with knowledgeable Blue Badge Guides. Alternatively get along to the open days from 22-24 July.
Horse Guards Parade, London
Beach Volley Ball comes to 10 Downing Street! That’s right – the high-energy beach sport will take place on Horse Guards Parade, the parade ground for the Queen’s bodyguards that’s next door to the Prime Minister’s house. It’s an unlikely mix, we admit, but one we’re very proud of. Head to Horse Guards Parade on 11 June 2011 and 16 June 2012 for Trooping the Colour, the Queen’s spectacular birthday ceremony.
Lord’s Cricket Ground, London
Lord’s Cricket Ground in North West London will be transformed into an Archery range for 2012. Crowds of 6,500 will enjoy the competition with two fields of play inside the stadium. Visit Lords to see the tiny Ashes urn, hotly contested by England and Australia, the stuffed sparrow ‘bowled out’ by Jahangir Khan and cricketing kit worn by many of the game’s greatest players. You can also tour players’ dressing rooms and see the famous Lord’s Honours Board that records great performances at the ground. And don’t forget Lord’s is also Britain’s most famous venue for county and international cricket!
Hyde Park, London
Hyde Park, one of London’s Royal Parks, will host the Triathlon course in 2012. Triathlon is among the fastest-growing individual sports in the UK, and thousands of people will line the route to spectate for free during the races. The park itself is one of the largest parks in London, a haven of relaxation in the middle of the city. Don’t miss Speakers’ Corner where people come to air their views and exercise their right to free speech, and the Diana Fountain, a memorial to Princess Diana.
Football stadiums, UK-wide
The London 2012 Football competitions will be held at stadiums throughout the country. Catch the games at Hampden Park in Glasgow; Millennium Stadium in Cardiff; Old Trafford in Manchester; St James’ Park in Newcastle; Villa Park in Birmingham and Wembley Stadium in London, where the finals will take place. If you want to experience the thrill of British football right now, take a stadium tour or catch a Premier League game.
Weymouth & Portland Harbour, Dorset
Weymouth & Portland Harbour in Dorset, on England’s South East coast, will be the venue for the 2012 Sailing and Paralympic Sailing competitions. Weymouth & Portland Harbour provides some of the best natural sailing waters in Britain and during the Games you’ll be able to watch the action for free. If you’d like to try sailing yourself you can book a lesson at the world-class Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy. This part of Dorset is also on the Jurassic Coast, Britain’s first natural World Heritage Site, a stretch of coastline where exposed cliffs and geological wonders give you an insight into millennia of natural history.
Lee Valley White Water Centre, Hertfordshire
The White Water Centre that will host the London 2012 Olympic canoe slalom competition opens to the public on 22 April. It’s the only brand new London 2012 venue that non-Olympic competitors will be able to use before the Games. Get in on the action before the pros and try canoeing, kayaking or white water rafting at this state of the art facility in the Lee Valley Park.
Wimbledon in South East London will be used for the Tennis competition at the 2012 Games. Up to 30,000 people will be able to watch the players compete. The sacred turf of Wimbledon’s Centre Court has seen some of the greatest tennis matches ever played. Highlights at the club’s museum include the Championship Trophies, a 200° cinema screen and a ‘walk-through’ of the men’s dressing room as it was in the 1980s, with John McEnroe.
North Greenwich Arena, London
You probably know the North Greenwich Arena as the O2 Arena. During the Games, it will seat 20,000 spectators for the Basketball final and 16,500 for the Gymnastics. Outside the Olympics, this huge dome by the Thames hosts pop concerts and is home to the British Music Experience, the interactive, immersive celebration of UK pop.
Greenwich Park, London
Greenwich Park will host the Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian competitions, plus the combined running and shooting event of the Modern Pentathlon. The park has got to have one of the best-looking riverside locations in London and is home to the Royal Observatory, the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the World, making it the official starting point for each new day and year. Greenwich itself is a World Heritage Site and is also the home to the National Maritime Museum and Christopher Wren’s graceful Old Royal Naval College.
For more information on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sports and venues, visit London 2012.