London Calling

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The 2012 Olympic Games are almost here, and England’s capital is ready to welcome visitors from around the world.

Since London’s Olympics bid was successful in July 2005, the city has been looking forward to staging what is possibly the greatest show on earth, with an elaborate opening ceremony on July 27 raising the curtain on London 2012.

Getting Ready

The London Olympic and Paralympic Games are expected to draw 5.5 million visitors to London. Before then, those seeking an Olympics or Paralympics experience can attend qualifying ‘dress rehearsals’ in sports such as shooting and water polo as competitors battle for their chance to medal. The ‘London Prepares’ test event series concludes over April and May; check website for ticket availability.

See for Yourself

Games fans can enjoy an Olympics odyssey, beginning at the View Tube, a centre and viewing gallery overlooking the Olympic Park accessible from Stratford’s Pudding Mill Lane Station on the Docklands Light Railway. It is also the start of a podcast tour downloadable from the Games’ official website.
Beside it stand an art gallery, official shop and ‘Goal’ a sculpture re-imagining Olympics / Tour de France victory lines.

The Greenway, a path located above a Victorian sewer, runs beside the park. At its end stand markers designed in part by Finnish artist Riitta Ikonen. Ikonen and her team are behind the ‘Fantastic Factology’ project which compiled surprising facts written on 57 plaques attached to benches dotted throughout the park, while their ‘Fantasticology’ wildflower meadow installation will bloom come July.

H Forman & Son’s art gallery and restaurant are on Fish Island, only three minutes’ walk from the Greenway’s markers. The stairs to the former feature numerous quotes from great Olympians and both the gallery and restaurant offer breathtaking views of the Olympic Stadium. The company has relocated here from their original premises on what is now the Olympic Park.

The Final Countdown

Step aside, Big Ben, there’s a new timepiece in town. It stands at Trafalgar Square, where the Omega Olympics Countdown Clock ticks down the seconds until the opening ceremony begins.

‘Live Sites’ – large public video screens, have been located in numerous cities in part to keep British people informed and interested as the Games near. London’s two sites are three minutes’ walk from Walthamstow Central tube station (beside a street market believed to be Europe’s longest,) and in Woolwich, near the former Royal Arsenal, Arsenal Football Club’s original home.

Let the Games Begin

Official souvenir shops are at Heathrow and Stansted Airports, Paddington and St Pancras Stations and John Lewis (a department store) on Oxford Street. (Please note Visa, the Games’ official card, is the only credit card accepted in these outlets.) St Pancras Station also boasts a stunning 20m-wide Olympic rings sculpture.

Official kit supplier Adidas’s flagship 415-419 Oxford Street store (best accessed from Bond Street tube) brings more merchandise and photo opportunities.  

Visitors to the UK should check their change for Olympic souvenirs; the Royal Mint put 87 million 50p coins bearing 29 different Olympic designs into circulation over 2010 and 2011.

Getting around

A London Underground Zone 1-4 travel card (£7.70-£10.60, around €9.20-11.80, daily) or an Oyster smart-card are recommended.

Contact details 

London 2012 Website

London Prepares Website

Riitta Ikonen Website

Text by Simon Fry

Published March 19, 2012

Category: Local features

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