With 2012 Olympics countdown nearing the two-week mark, London is busy prepping its world-class venues for competition. From historic Hampton Court to the newly renovated Wembley Arena to the Mall stretching between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, temporary structures and thousands of temporary seats are transforming these iconic locales into Olympic venues.
The largest exhibition venue in central London, Earls Court will house a purpose-built volleyball court and temporary seating for the Olympic Games. Unlike the permanent and temporary venues constructed in Olympic Park, Earls Court has Olympic history; hosting boxing, gymnastics, weightlifting, and wrestling at the 1948 Games.
Earls Court was built intention of building Europe’s largest structure by volume, and opened in 1937 with more than 430,000 square feet of exhibition space. Earls Court continues to host numerous shows and exhibitions throughout the year.
Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Taekwondo, Table Tennis, Weightlifting, Wrestling
ExCeL, opened in 2001, is the largest competition venue at the London Olympics. The conference and exhibition center was constructed with five different arenas, each of which will host a different sport for the Games. Because the venue was intended for major events, no additional construction was required. However, several test events were held in 2011 to ensure the venue could handle its many scheduled events.
Equestrian, Modern Pentathlon
Dating back to 1433, Greenwich Park is London’s oldest Royal Park and home to the Prime Meridian Line. The park covers 183 acres and is located 20 minutes from central London.
For the Olympics’ Eventing competition, a 3.5-mile temporary cross-country course was designed featuring more than 42 jumps, as well as water obstacles, slopes, and hills. A temporary main arena is currently being constructed in front of the Queen’s House within the grounds of the National Maritime Museum, and will include a purpose-made platform built from plywood, aluminum, and steel atop more than 2,000 pillars.
Hampton Court Palace
Cycling – Road
Better known as the residence of many famous monarchs – most notably, King Henry VIII – Hampton Court Palace also boasts a rich sporting history. The palace, which will host the road cycling time trial, includes the oldest surviving real tennis court in England and an 18-hole golf course within its grounds.
Several temporary structures will be constructed for the Olympic Games, including spectator facilities, the cyclist start ramp, and the “hot seat” (where the leading rider sits until beaten by another rider).
Horse Guards Parade
Located steps away from 10 Downing, Horse Guard’s Parade will host a temporary arena for beach volleyball. The parade ground dates back to 1745, and is named for the soldiers who have provided protection for the monarch since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Installation of the arena, including 5,000 tons of sand, occurred last month after the Trooping of the Colour, which takes place each year on the Queen’s official birthday. The facility will be able to accommodate approximately 15,000 spectators.
Hyde Park, the largest of London’s Royal Parks, will host the Marathon Swimming 10km and the swimming leg of the Triathlon in Serpentine Lake. The park has been open to the public since 1637 and regularly hosts major sporting events. The course was marked and temporary seating was installed last month.
Lord’s Cricket Ground
Long seen as the traditional Home of Cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground – named for founder Thomas Lord – will host archery for the 2012 Olympics. Archers will shoot from the front of the 19th century Pavilion, across the cricket square, towards the Media Center. The Pavilion underwent extensive renovation in 2004-05.
As with many of the London venues hosting Olympic events, temporary structures, including seating, were installed to get spectators closer to the action. However, comparatively little preparation was needed to ready the venue for the Games.
North Greenwich Arena
Basketball, Gymnastics – Artistic, Trampoline
North Greenwich Arena is located on the Greenwich peninsula on the banks of the River Thames, and will host artistic and trampoline gymnastics, as well as basketball and wheelchair basketball.
Built for the Millennium celebrations, the 20,000-seat arena has hosted many large-scale sporting events over the past decade. Its multi-use arena, 11-screen cinema, bars, and restaurants opened to the public in June 2007. Temporary tents, cabins, signage, services, and equipment will be installed prior to the Games.
Athletics, Cycling – Road
An iconic backdrop to formal ceremonies and major sporting events, the Mall’s red road will provide the start and finish for various road events. In the early 20th century, the Mall was created as a procession route designed to welcome the royal family and visiting heads of state to Buckingham Palace. The Mall runs form Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch and ends with Trafalgar Square.
Olympic officials have 36 days, following the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and birthday celebration, in which to construct temporary spectator seating, scoreboards, video boards, tents, cabins, and generators.
The Royal Artillery Barracks
Unlike previous Olympic Games, shooting competitors will get to stay with their teammates in the Olympic Village, thanks to a centralized shooting venue. Temporary shooting rangers and grandstands were constructed at the Royal Artillery Barracks, which dates back to 1716.
More than 193,750 square feet of PVC membrane surround the temporary structure, and vibrantly colored openings in the façade provide natural ventilation and light. Three temporary indoor rangers for pistol and rifle shooting have been constructed with outdoor shotgun ranges for trap and skeet evens. Each shooting range will have temporary spectator grandstands.
Badminton, Gymnastics – Rythmic
A world-famous live-music venue, Wembley Areana will be the Olympics’ second largest indoor arena after North Greenwich Arena. Located in northwest London, Wembley Arena was constructed for the 1934 British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games).
Because of a recent renovation, Wembley Arena will only require additional flooring, lighting, warm-up halls, training areas, and an operations compound for the Games.
Wembley Stadium will be the largest of the six venues hosting soccer at the 2012 Olympics, and the second largest of all Olympic Venues (Olympic Stadium, located in Olympic Park, is the largest).
Located on the site of the 1923 stadium, the current incarnation opened in 2007, featuring an arch more than four times the height of the towers at the old Wembley Stadium. With a height of more than 400 feet and a span of over 1,000 feet, the stadium’s arch is the longest single span roof structure in the world.
Temporary screening areas for spectators and vehicles will be installed prior to the Games. Wembley Stadium has a sliding roof in case of bad weather.
The site The Championships and home of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon is the only remaining major grass-court tennis venue in the world. Wimbledon is located in southwest London, near Richmond Park and Kew Gardens.
Wimbledon’s Centre Court opened in 1922, and was recently updated with improved stands and a retractable roof. The venue covers more than 42 acres, and contains 19 grass courts, six clay courts, and five indoor courts. Temporary facilities were installed prior to The Championships, and more will be added in preparation for the 2012 Olympics.
For the 2012 Olympic Venue Preview Part 1: Olympic Park, CLICK HERE.
2012 Olympic Venue Preview Part 3 will cover the Olympic venues outside London.
All images from the Official London 2012 Website.