London Olympics 2012 Preview
The biggest sporting event of the summer kicks off July 27 with Opening Ceremonies and runs through August 12. Preview with the Dubai Chronicle’s team all things London 2012, including the new Olympic Park, many of the facilities and venues in and around London. Learn all about how to get tickets and where the events are. If you are thinking of heading over last minute, read further.
There are plenty of reasons to consider attending the London Olympics, not the least of which has been the well documented recent plunge in airfares, especially for premium class tickets to London during the Games. There are plenty of hotel rooms available: London has over 1,006 hotels and more than 100,000 hotel rooms. In addition, one may consider urban bed and breakfasts, homestays, and apartment rentals. The options in all these categories are vetted and approved by the city’s visitor’s bureau and available for online booking.
There has been lots of concern voiced about infrastructure and transportation in and around the city, but it’s largely misplaced hype. The last Games were in Beijing, a city famous with its dysfunctional traffic and vast distances, not to mention the time (and visa) it takes to get there in the first place.
If you watch on TV like most people, the choice of city becomes far less important, but there are still some uniquely London twists to consider while viewing. So here in no particular order are some interesting thoughts, factoids, and tips for the upcoming Games – and beyond.
The City: London 2012 set out to be the most “urban” of any Olympics and has largely succeeded. While some events such as sailing and soccer are far removed, the bulk of the facilities and the highest profile events (basketball, track and field, swimming, gymnastics, boxing, rowing, etc.) are all in the city and its immediate urban area, including Greenwich.
The Break Out Sport: Beach volleyball has the single coolest venue at the Games, being played in the front yard of Horse Guard’s Parade, the headquarters of the British Army and former residence of the Duke of Wellington. This temporary beach could not be any more in the heart of the city, in Whitehall and adjacent to the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street. Will make for awesome TV footage!
Opening Ceremonies: With the theme Isles of Wonder promoting the British Isles, the elaborate production is already generating lots of anticipation, mainly due to its acclaimed director, Danny Boyle, of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting fame. The £27 million extravaganza is difficult to describe, but will feature everything from farming and the plowing of real soil to performances by The Who and Sir Paul McCartney along with lights, rain (real or fake) and lots of people flying on wires.
Legacy: This Olympics, probably more than any in history, has been purposefully designed to create a lasting change on London’s landscape and be more permanent than disposable. This is especially true of the 500-acre Olympic Park, a former industrial site, which will reopen as Queen Elizabeth Park, with the stadium, aquatic center, and miles of running and cycling paths. The aquatic center will be open to the public, the stadium will be the new home of the Westham soccer team, and the park also houses the most visible symbol of the 2012 Games, the Orbit, which is expected to become a big draw. “The Eiffel Tower of East London,” the 40-story observation tower by artist Anish Kapoor will allow visitors to ride an elevator to a viewing platform then descend a spiral staircase that wraps around the sculpture.
The other lasting benefits of the $15 billion infrastructure improvements for the Games are two new permanent stations added to the Docklands Light Railway, and capacity was greatly and permanently increased on several Underground lines, mainly the Central and Jubilee, which are heavily used by tourists. Several major rail stations got enormous facelifts, and $15 million of new cycling and walking paths were added city-wide.
Green: London 2012 is the first car-free Olympics. With the exception of athletes, trainers and dignitaries (hard to imagine IOC members taking the subway) no regular guests or ticket holders will be allowed to arrive by car at any of the Olympic venues, something that was part of London’s bid from the beginning. This is the first all-mass transit, all-park and ride Games.
Fast Food: For 17 days the Olympic Park will host a unique temporary addition to the East London landscape: the world’s largest McDonalds.
Paralympics: The fun does not end when the torch is dimmed – the 2012 Paralympic Games kicks off August 27, with many of the same events in the same venues, and ticket availability is much better for these competitions.