Olympic stadium

As the London 2012 Olympics are underway after a spectacular opening ceremony, read our guide to some of the top venues around the country from iconic stadiums in Scotland and Wales to beach volleyball in London's Horse Guards Parade.


2012 Olympics: Olympic Stadium
Sports: Athletics, Paralympic Athletics, Opening and Closing Ceremonies
Location: Olympic Park, near Stratford, east London

As the centerpiece of the 2012 Olympics, the new £496 million Olympic Stadium is a gleaming new landmark in this formerly deprived part of east London. Located on an island and accessible by five bridges, the 80,000-seater stadium is surrounded by rivers, canals and gardens as well as new cafés, bars and restaurants.

Although attractions are thin on the ground, the area’s ethnically diverse population offers a snapshot of London’s multicultural melting pot. Check out the excellent range of Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani restaurants and shops in nearby Green Street. Meanwhile, Stratford's mini cultural quarter boasts a stunning Victorian Theatre at its core. In addition, the recent opening of Westfield Stratford City, Europe's largest urban shopping centre, is guaranteed to satisfy legions of shoppers.

Greenwich Park 200View of Greenwich
Creative Commons / Dimitry B
2012 Olympics: Greenwich Park
Sports: Equestrian events, Modern Pentathlon
Location: Greenwich, southeast London

Sprawling from the south bank of the River Thames, Greenwich Park is the capital’s oldest Royal Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Home to frolicking squirrels and packed with families, couples and picnickers every summer, it offers magnificent views of central London and the Docklands. The best vantage point (particularly at sunset) is from the Royal Observatory, site of the Greenwich Meridian Line.

The park is also home to the National Maritime Museum, which has added a new exhibition wing in time for the 2012 Olympics. Close by is the whitewashed baroque splendour of the Old Royal Naval College. Greenwich itself offers a fantastic weekend market with 150 stalls selling everything from jewellery, clothes and gifts to delicious world cuisine.

Hampton Court Palace 200Hampton Court Palace
Creative Commons / stevecadman
2012 Olympics: Hampton Court Palace
Sports: Cycling
Location: Near Richmond, southwest London

Hampton Court Palace provides a spectacular backdrop to the time trial events of the road cycling competition during the 2012 Olympics.

A number of monarchs have lived in Hampton Court Palace, but perhaps the most colourful was Henry VIII. Be sure to enter the palace before or after the cyclists fly by to explore beautiful gardens, the Chapel Royal, the Great Hall and a giant maze.

Hyde Park 200Hyde Park
iStockphoto / Thinkstock
2012 Olympics: Hyde Park
Sports: Triathlon, Marathon Swimming
Location: Central London

London’s largest Royal Park, Hyde Park, plays host to the triathlon and marathon swimming events at the 2012 Olympics. During the games, music, theatre, film and cultural events are taking part in the park.

Covering more than 141 hectares (350 acres), the park itself contains beautiful gardens and statues and is close to Kensington Palace. Within walking distance are the Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum; Harrods department store and Oxford Street; top-notch hotels and restaurants around Mayfair and Edgware Road offering enticing Middle Eastern fare.

Horse Guards Parade 200London Eye at sunset
2012 Olympics: Horse Guards Parade
Sports: Beach Volleyball
Location: Central London

London now has its very own ‘beach’ with the setting of the beach volleyball competition at Horse Guards Parade. Sand has been imported into a temporary arena with space for 15,000 spectators.

This flesh-baring sport takes place in the heart of Whitehall, the UK’s political centre, a stone’s throw from Downing Street. Some of the capital’s top attractions are also within easy reach, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square.


Millennium Stadium 200Millennium Stadium
123rf.com / Andres Rodriguez
2012 Olympics: Millennium Stadium
Sports: Football
Location: Cardiff, Wales

Located in Wales’s capital city, the Millennium Stadium is surrounded by magnificent architecture, beautiful golf courses and Cardiff Bay, home to restaurants, bars and hotels.

Take time to visit to the extraordinary neo-medieval Cardiff Castle. Learn more about the city and its history at the National Museum Cardiff. Check out tranquil Llandaff Cathedral or on the outskirts of the city, St Fagans National History Museum, one of the best open-air museums in the world.

Lee Valley White Water Centre 200Lee Valley White Water Centre
2012 Olympics: Lee Valley White Water Centre
Sports: Canoe Slalom
Location: Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire

Thrill-seekers can already enjoy adrenaline-pumping, white-water rafting and canoeing at the only 2012 Olympics venue that was open to the public before the Games. Rafters can to navigate the 300m (984ft) Olympic course featuring obstacles, drops, waves and fast-flowing, white water.

The centre is part of Lee Valley Regional Park, which offers a diverse mix of heritage sites, nature reserves and open green spaces.

Hampden Park 200View of Glasgow from the water
iStockphoto / Thinkstock
2012 Olympics: Hampden Park
Sports: Football
Location: Glasgow, Scotland

Hampden Park is Scotland’s national football stadium and is situated a few miles south of Glasgow. The city rivals Edinburgh for its energy and buzz. It boasts a pounding live music scene, thumping nightlife, first-class shopping, interesting museums and gorgeous architecture.


* For more information about tickets for 2012 Olympics, go to www.london2012.com

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