Olympic drama usually plays best in dramatic settings. So, mixing equal parts ambition and ingenuity, old and new, London organizers created suitably dramatic stages for the 2012 Summer Games. The main venues stretch from the Olympic Park in East London to the Royal Artillery Barracks and Greenwich Park in the West End to Wimbledon in the southwest and Wembley Stadium in the northeast.
While shiny new construction fills Olympic Park, organizers transformed historic places and familiar sports arenas into other Olympic-grade venues. Hyde Park will feature the triathlon and marathon swimming. The hallowed Lord's Cricket Ground will host archery. Wimbledon and Wembley Stadium will do what they do best, welcome the world's top tennis and soccer players, respectively.
But which venue will become top icons of the the London Olympics? The Velodrome, the Aquatics Centre and the Basketball Arena in the Olympic Park are the most striking of the new buildings. The beach volleyball setup at Horse Guards Parade and the equestrian site at Greenwich Park are the most unexpected.
Key to venues
There are 38 unique sporting events being staged at venues throughout Great Britain. Those events:
Olympic Park: The main stage
In Olympic Park, 8 newly-constructed venues host 12 different sporting competitions.
A temporary facility, Riverbank Arena has two pitches, one with spectator seating, and one for use as a warm-up area.
London 2012 is the first Olympic Games where the hockey pitches aren't green. Pink is used for the area surrounding the pitch and blue for the field of play - making it easy to spot the yellow ball.
The curved-roof Velodrome has inspired one of the all-time best Olympic venue nicknames: the Pringle. And the exterior does, indeed, resemble a potato chip. Inside, 6,000 seats circle the track where cyclists like Britain's Sir Chris Hoy will compete. Hoy, a three-time gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, gave Velodrome designers input with an eye toward speed, making the Siberian pine track a likely site of multiple world records. Considering British track cyclists won eight golds in Beijing, Hoy and his teammates could be among the record-setters, making the Velodrome a site of national pride for more than its award-winning appearance.
Considered a fast and challenging course, it features a 26-foot high ramp at the start, followed by jumps, bumps, and tightly banked corners. The entire venue is slightly larger than the size of a soccer field.
Around 500 thousand cubic feet of soil excavated elsewhere on the Olympic Park site was used to build the track. After the Games, the temporary seating will be removed and the track will be reconfigured to make it suitable for riders of all ages and abilities. The BMX Track and Velodrome will be joined by a new road cycle circuit and mountain bike course to create the Lee Valley VeloPark, combining cycling facilities across all disciplines into one cycling "hub."
Upon first glimpsing the facility on the northeastern edge of the Olympic Park, visitors and television viewers might experience deja vu. With its rippled, white plastic outer walls, the venue looks eerily similar to the Water Cube in Beijing. And since the arena is one of the largest temporary structures ever built for the Games, it may be dismantled and reassembled for the 2016 Rio Games. Deja vu all over again. The third-largest venue in the Olympic Park seats 12,000 and features 8-foot high doorways, leaving plenty of room for the world's tallest athletes. Handball moves in after the basketball tournaments advance to the later rounds. The white exterior will be used as a projection screen for light images, again much like the Water Cube.
The Olympic campus has residential apartments for around 17,000 athletes and officials during the Games, along with shops, restaurants, medical, media and leisure facilities, and large areas of open space. Each apartment provides comfortable accommodation and state-of-the-art communications facilities, including internet access and wireless networking.
After the Games, it will be transformed into 2,818 new homes for sale or rent with accommodations that will range from one bedroom apartments up to four- and five-bedroom townhouses.
A sustainable design, it includes an innovative roof that captures both light and water. Natural light is filtered into the venue through 88 light pipes, reducing the demand for electric lights up to 40 percent. Collected rainwater is used to flush toilets and reduce water use also by up to 40 percent.
Inside, retractable seating can change to facilitate different activities both during and after the Games. Outside, the top half is clad in 32,300 square-feet of mostly recycled copper. After the Games, the Copper Box will become a multi-use sports center for community use, athlete training, and events.
The transportation hub for Olympic Park, all public transportation feeds to here, including rail service from London Underground and National Rail.
Olympic athletes and spectators can shop until they drop and entertain themselves in the mixed-use development that includes almost 3 million square-feet of retail and leisure space. A 367-room hotel, over 1 million square-feet of office space, and almost 5,000 new homes currently make up the complex.
The 80,000-seat stadium hosts the opening and closing ceremonies and track and field events. It is surrounded by waterways on three sides and spectators reach the venue via five bridges.
In the Olympic planners goal to "reduce, reuse, and recycle," a flexible design was adopted that allows the temporary steel and concrete upper tier to be removed after the Games to reduced seating capacity to just 25,000. Because the lower tier sits within a bowl in the ground, the use of construction materials was minimized. Also, significantly less steel was used during construction compared with other Olympic stadiums. After the Games, the stadium will be used primarily for track and field events but it will also be a venue for other sporting, cultural, and community events.
As spectators enter Olympic Park it will be the first venue they will see. A distinct silver-colored wrap and a sloping inflatable roof shroud the first dedicated water polo venue ever built for the Olympic Games.
Designed for sustainability, it will be taken down after the games and many of its parts, such as the temporary seating, and the silver skin made from environmentally-friendly PVC, will be recycled, reused, or relocated elsewhere.
Critiqued for cost overruns, crooked lighting that confused backstrokers at a test event, and temporary appendages needed to accommodate Olympic-sized crowds, the Aquatics Centre is already the most talked-about venue. As the site of swimming, diving and modern pentathlon competitions, the water-inspired building with its wave-shaped roof and temporary wings will remain in the spotlight's glare during the Games. Then again, with more than two-thirds of spectators entering the Olympic Park via a bridge that arcs over the complex, it was designed to leave a lasting first impression. Upon removal of the two temporary wings, the centre scales down from an Olympic capacity of 17,500 to 2,500. In another feat of venue conversion, pool water will be reused to flush the complex's toilets.
Venues around London
Outside of the new Olympic Park, historic London takes over as the backdrop where 26 events will be staged at 12 sports venues.
|3||Lord's Cricket Ground|
|4||Horse Guards Parade|
|5||North Greenwich Arena|
|7||Hampton Court Palace|
|12||The Royal Artillery Barracks|
Drawing crowds to beach volleyball doesn't take much beyond bikini-clad female competitors. But Horse Guards Parade will offer more than the usual scenery. The venue is situated, as London organizers often proudly mention, at the Prime Minister's doorstep. The court complex with its 15,000 seats and 2,274 tons of shipped-in sand will cover the parade ground traditionally used for military ceremonies like Changing of the Guard and Trooping the Color. Given the carnival atmosphere that typically surrounds beach volleyball, Prime Minister David Cameron might find it difficult to focus on work during the competition.
In the time of Henry VIII, Greenwich Park was royal deer hunting ground. At the Games, London's oldest royal park will serve as a 183-acre stage for dressage, eventing, and jumping in equestrian, as well as riding in the modern pentathlon. And it likely will welcome members of the reigning royal family, as well as members of the Romney clan. US entries in the dressage competition include Rafalca, a horse co-owned by Ann Romney. Like Horse Guards Parade, Greenwich Park showcases the Queen's House and all its classic architecture, reinvented as a venue site. If any of the 23,000 spectators tire of horses or royal watching, the park also offers hilltop views of the London cityscape.
Venues outside of London
Once spectators and Olympians travel outside of metropolitan London, the venues used include English Premiere League pitches for soccer, Wimbledon for tennis, English roads and backcountry for biking events, and the English Channel for sailing.
|2||St. James' Park|
|6||Weymouth & Portland|