A closer look at London's Olympic venues
August, 4, 2012
By Patrick Dorsey | ESPN.com
Ryan Pierse/Getty ImagesOlympic Stadium, home of the opening ceremony, is one of many impressive London 2012 venues.
A full week is done in the 2012 London Olympics, with the Games' many venues all having been used for competition.
So, with help from the London-based travel site MyDestination.com and the Olympics' official site, Playbook takes a look at our 12 favorite (or favourite, for the sake of this story) venues -- from an Olympics-worthy stadium (on an island, to boot) to a Buckingham-adjacent bike path (complete with a red carpet-like road), and much more.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE
Bryn Lennon/Getty ImagesSports: Road cycling (time trial)
Noteworthy: A former residence of Henry VIII and many other British monarchs, this centuries-old palace -- which rests on the banks of the River Thames -- oversees cyclists as they speed through their time trials. It also is home to the oldest real tennis court in the country; real tennis is an indoor game similar to the sport we now know.
Tom Lovelock/AELTC/Pool/Getty ImagesSports: Tennis
Noteworthy: Did somebody say (or write) tennis? This famous complex is huge (spanning 42 acres) and offers a court or two or 30 (that's the actual number; 19 grass, six clay, five indoor). And as we learned Friday, it also will be home to a Roger Federer-Andy Murray rematch.
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesSports: Marathon, race walk, road cycling
Noteworthy: Forget Hampton Court Palace; cyclists in the road race -- plus some runners and walkers -- get a chance to swing by Buckingham Palace, then carry on down the Mall's red road (think: red carpet), past a line of Union Jack flags, then on to the finish. It's a special route, one traveled by many heads of state. But it's also a classic athletics venue, as the annual London Marathon takes place here.
Stanley Chou/Getty ImagesSports: Basketball, handball
Noteworthy: It looks like a mattress, and for a reason -- it comprises more than 215,000 square feet of fabric, in addition to its more than 2.2 million pounds of steel. Its future plans somewhat resemble an air mattress, though, as it will be deflated (actually, deconstructed), and recycled -- making it one of the largest temporary venues ever built for an Olympics.
LORD'S CRICKET GROUND
Paul Gilham/Getty ImagesSports: Archery
Noteworthy: Named not for a lord lord, but a man named Lord (venue founder Thomas Lord), this long-standing cradle of cricket underwent a slight seating transformation to host archery. But the backdrop remains the same; the Pavilion dates back to the 1800s.
ROYAL ARTILLERY BARRACKS
Lars Baron/Getty ImagesSports: Shooting
Noteworthy: On the inside, it's old-school England, as the original barracks date back to the 18th century. On the outside, though, rests more than 190,000 square feet of special-to-the-Games PVC membrane -- fitting, given the building's pipe-like look. Like the basketball arena, this is but temporary, as the new construction will be disassembled and donated after the Olympics.
Leon Neal/Getty ImagesSports: Swimming and diving
Noteworthy: Home to globally celebrated athletes, this was designed by the globally celebrated Iraqi-English architect Zaha Hadid and built specifically for London 2012. It will remain in place after the Games -- at least partially, as two wings will be removed and the capacity dropped to 2,500. The roof currently is longer than 500 feet, and it is the size of a terminal at London's Heathrow Airport.
Daniel Berehulak/Getty ImagesSports: Track cycling
Noteworthy: Any velodrome's tracks are distinctive enough, but this building's oval rooftop -- similar to that of the Aquatics Centre -- stands out from the outside. Also notable is the building's aim for sustainability; its design uses ventilation to render air conditioning unnecessary, invites in natural light and even catches rainwater with its roof. Not only that, but spectators can see all around Olympic Park thanks to a panoramic glass wall on the building's exterior. As for the track's design, British cyclist Chris Hoy helped out in an aim to create world-record times -- and it worked.
NORTH GREENWICH ARENA
Richard Heathcote/Getty ImagesSports: Gymnastics, trampoline, basketball
Noteworthy: Gabby Douglas' gold grabbed attention, as did the U.S. women's overall first-place finish. But let's not ignore the building they were in, one that rests on the banks of the River Thames and features all sorts of non-sporting activities during the year: music, cinema and diving. Known as the O2 Arena throughout the year, this originated as the Millennium Dome but was redesigned after 2000. As for its design, it features 12 100-foot support towers (one for each month of the year and hour in the day -- think Greenwich Mean Time -- and constellation used to tell time) and is 365 meters in diameter (one for each day of the non-leap year).
Mike Hewitt/Getty ImagesSports: Soccer
Noteworthy: Notable not just for its Olympics presence or that arch (more than 430 feet high and 1,000 feet long), this venue has played host to some of soccer's biggest matches -- particularly UEFA Champions League finals (including 2013's). Well, not exactly this venue. Similar to Yankee Stadium, the original Wembley was constructed in 1923 and replaced by this version in 2007. Oh, and if you do go, don't fret about bathroom breaks; it is host to a world-record 2,000 toilets.
HORSE GUARDS PARADE
Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesSports: Beach volleyball
Noteworthy: The typical home of the daily Changing the Guard and the yearly Trooping the Colour (celebrating the queen's birthday), this 18th-century-spawned ground instead has been host to more than a million pounds of England-cultivated sand. Yeah, it's safe to say the beach volleyball setup is only temporary.
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesSports: Track and field
Noteworthy: The star of this year's show thanks to the opening ceremony, this new venue opened its doors to actual sporting competition when track and field began Friday. And it's quite the place, with a 25,000-seat lower level and a removable upper tier comprising the rest of the seats. Also recycled and/or recyclable: the soil removed to build the lower level's bowl, plus the pipe that composes the top ring. As for location, this building sits on something of an island, accessible only through one of five bridges. And let's not forget the stadium's key supporting player: Willow the hawk, trained to scare off pesky pigeons.