Some great London landmarks which sports fans will love to visit
London is set to be the sporting capital of the world in 2012 as the Olympic flame is lit once more in an English stadium.
Of course, not everyone will be lucky enough to get tickets to see the Games but there are lots of great sports-related sights to see in Britain’s biggest city.
Why not spend a little extra time in London before flying off on holiday – organising a quick sight-seeing tour of places of sporting significance can really get you in the holiday mood.
Here’s a list of seven sporting wonders of London to give you some inspiration.
The hallowed grass of the All England Tennis club should be well-worn during the summer of 2012 –it will host the world’s most famous tennis tournament in June and July and the Olympic tournament three weeks later.
Tickets for these two events will be rarer than gold dust so why not visit the club ‘off-season’; the grounds are open to the public all-year round.
It is always great to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the locker room where the likes of Borg, McEnroe, Federer, Nadal, Evert and Navratilova shared anxious small talk before tournament finals.
If you want a refreshing drink after visiting the club, then bear in mind that the Dog and Fox pub, a favourite haunt of late-great actor Oliver Reed, is just a stone’ throw away from the grounds.
London’s Nobu restaurant – the place where Boris Becker famously drowned his sorrows after his last All England Club match – is a fabulous post-Wimbledon place to eat.
Since 2008, Alexandra Palace, near Muswell Hill in North London, has hosted the PDC World Darts Championship (the version which Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor has dominated).
The electric atmosphere generated by the competition makes the venue seem like an enormous pub but in fact Alexandra Palace, as the name suggests, is a place fit for royalty.
Built as the ‘People’s Palace’ in 1873, it offers a panoramic view of London from its beautiful parklands.
‘Ally Pally’ has hosted events such as Stone Roses concerts and Miss World contests but it is darts with which is now most closely-associated.
The darts players who step up to the ochre at the venue will never win a beauty contest but Alexandra Palace is certainly easy on the eye.
It’s a contradiction that a palace which looks so serene and regal from the outside can house such highly-charged darts matches inside!
Speaking of beautiful pieces of architecture, sports fans who find themselves in London really should hot-foot it to Stoke Newington’s Scottish Castle. On the outside this imposing building’s parapets and towers give it the air of a medieval castle.
One can well imagine, besieging armies scaling its walls as battle raged in times gone by. However, the only climbing activities which take place here occur on the inside – since 1995 it has been home to a maze of artificial rock faces; making it one of the world’s most scenic indoor climbing centres.
Climbing the steps to the Royal Box on a tour of a Wembley is a reminder of just how much the stadium has grown (the old Wembley had 39 steps, the new one has 107).
Tours of Wembley feature time spent in the England changing room and you can follow in the footsteps of the likes of Lionel Messi and David Beckham by walking down the tunnel which leads to the lush turf.
Of course, Wembley wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a meeting which took place in Covent Garden’s Freemasons Pub in 1863. This convivial hostelry hosted the first-ever meeting of the Football Association during which the act of running with the ball in hand was outlawed.
The pub is still in existence as is, despite numerous scandals, the FA.
5. Hampton Court Palace tennis court
Henry VIII spent a lot of time attending to matters of court – divorces, wars with France and treaties with European allies.
And he also spent a lot of time on court – at the indoor tennis court at beautiful Hampton Court Palace Gardens. It was here that one of his matches was interrupted as he was informed of the execution of Queen Anne Boleyn.
The gloved version of tennis which Henry enjoyed so much is still played on the court today and Hampton Court Palace is open throughout the year (with the exception of 24th, 25th and 26th December).
Many football grounds have statues. At Wembley, a bronze sculpture of World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore stands guard outside the national stadium. Over at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium they like statues so much that they have three: ones of former players Thierry Henry and Tony Adams and one of managerial legend Herbert Chapman.
Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground has arguably the most famous statue – but it’s not of a footballer. Since April 2011, visiting fans have been happily posing for photos by the giant statue of pop singer Michael Jackson which has been built outside the ground.
Fulham fans seem less keen on the ground’s new addition. Michael Tune summed up the reaction of many of his fellow supporters when he told BBC News: “We’re a laughing stock. It has nothing to do with football.”
However, club chairman Mohammed Al Fayed, a friend of the late Jackson, has indicated that the statue is here to stay. He told fans they could “go to hell” if they don’t like the statue.
You can judge the full-colour statue’s merits for yourself by visiting Craven Cottage in Stevenage Road. With the oldest football stand in London and its icon of a pop legend, the Cottage truly is a marriage of the old and the modern.
Sporting venues should really be in existence for a long time before meriting inclusion in a ‘seven wonders of the London sporting world’ list. But perhaps an exception should be made for the Olympic Stadium – the legal fight between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United regarding residency at the stadium is proof of how in-demand this new sporting landmark is.
By the time the 2017 World Athletics Championships takes place at the stadium, this venue might have begun to rival the pulling power of Wembley and Wimbledon.
Let’s hope so!