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London - host of the XXX Olympic Games in 2012
London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom while also being the largest metropolitan area of both. Situated on the River Thames, London has been a major population center for over two millennia, dating back to its founding by the Romans. London possesses a preminent place in the world in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, tourism and transportation all lending to its prominence. London is third in attracting the most international visitors in the world and London Heathrow Airport is the worlds busiest airport according to its number of international passengers. The 43 Universities located in London form the largest concentration of higher education in Europe. In 2012 London will become the first city to host the modern Summer Olympic Games three times. London has a wide range of people from different races and cultures with more than 300 languages being spoken within the city. According to a survey in July 2010 the greater London area had an official population of 7,825,200 - making it the most populous city in the European Union and accounting for 12.5% of the entire population of the United Kingdom. The city of London contains four UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Tower of London; Kew Gardens comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich - in which the Royal Observatory marks the Prime Meridian at 0° longitude and GMT. Other well known landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and Wembley Stadium. London is home to numerous museums, galleries, libraries, sporting venues and other cultural institutions. Among these are the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, British Library, Wimbledon and 40 other theaters. The London Underground is the oldest underground transportation network in the world and its extent is second only to the Shanghai Metro.
Bombing by the German Luftwaffe during World War II killed over 30,000 Londoners while destroying large residential neighborhoods and numerous other buildings across London. Following the war, the 1948 Summer Olympics were held at the original Wembley Stadium before the city had even completely recovered from the war. In 1951 the Festival of Britain was held on the South Bank. The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition in Britain organized by the government to give Britons a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of the war and to promote British contributions to science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts. The Festival's centerpiece was in London on the South Bank of the Thames. There were events in Poplar (Architecture), Battersea (The Festival Pleasure Gardens), South Kensington (Science) and Glasgow (Industrial Power). The festival celebrations were held in Cardiff, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Perth, Bournemouth, York, Aldeburgh, Inverness, Cheltenham, Oxford and other locations as well as touring exhibitions by land and sea. The Festival became associated with the post-war Labour government of Clement Attlee and was rapidly demolished by the incoming Conservative administration of Winston Churchill. After the war London became home to a large number of immigrants, mostly from Commonwealth countries such as Jamaica, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan - making the city one of the most ethnically diverse in Europe. During the mid-1960s London became a centre for an international youth culture. The role of trendsetter created during the rock and roll era was revived during the punk era. The unrest in Northern Ireland was brought to London when the city was subjected to bombing attacks by the Provisional IRA, culminating on 7 July 2005 when three London Underground trains and a double-decker bus were bombed in a series of terrorist attacks.
To celebrate the start of the 21st century, the Millennium Dome, London Eye and Millennium Bridge were constructed. Tourism is one of London's prime industries employing the equivalent of 350,000 full-time workers in London back in 2003, while annual expenditures by tourists was around £15 billion. London attracts over 14 million international visitors and 27 million overnight stay visitors every year, making it Europe's most visited city. London is a major international air transportation hub with the largest city airspace in the world. There are eight airports that use the word London in their name, but most traffic passes through only six of these. London Heathrow Airport, in Hillingdon, West London, is the busiest airport in the world for international traffic, and is the major hub of the British national flag carrier, British Airways. In March 2008 its fifth terminal was opened. In September 2011 a personal rapid transit system was opened at Heathrow to connect to a nearby car park. A similar amount of traffic, with the addition of some low-cost short-haul flights, is also serviced at Gatwick Airport, located south of London in West Sussex. Stansted Airport, situated north east of London in Essex, is the main UK hub for Ryanair and Luton Airport to the north of London in Bedfordshire, caters mostly for low-cost short-haul flights. London City Airport, the smallest and most central airport, is focused on business travellers, with a mixture of full service short-haul scheduled flights and considerable private business jet traffic. London Southend Airport, east of London in Essex, is a smaller, regional airport that mainly caters for low-cost short-haul flights. It recently went through a large redevelopment project including a brand new terminal, an extended runway and a new railway station offering fast links into the capital. EasyJet currently has a base at this airport.
The London bus system is one of the biggest in the world, operating 24 hours a day, with 8,000 buses, 700 bus routes, and over 6 million passenger trips made each and every weekday. London has the largest wheelchair accessible network in the world and since the 3rd quarter of 2007 it became even more accessible to hearing and visually impaired passengers when audio-visual announcements were introduced. The well known distinctive red double-decker buses are internationally acknowledged as a trademark of London transportation as well as the black taxis and the Tube. London has a modern tram network known as Tramlink based in Croydon in South London. This network has 39 stops on three routes which carried over 26 million people in 2008. Transport for London owns Tramlink and plans to spend £54 million by 2015 on maintenance, refurbishments, upgrades and capacity enlargements. From being the largest port in the world, the Port of London is now only the second-largest in the United Kingdom, handling 45 million tonnes of cargo each year. Most of this actually passes through the Port of Tilbury, outside the boundary of Greater London. Although the majority of journeys involving central London are made by public transport, car travel is common in the suburbs. The inner ring road around the city centre, the North and South Circular roads in the suburbs, and the outer orbital motorway called the M25 outside the built-up area encircle the city and are intersected by a number of busy radial routes, but very few motorways penetrate into inner London. The M25 is the longest ring road motorway in the world at 195.5 km or 121.5 miles long. The A1 and M1 connect London to Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle.
The London Underground, commonly referred to as the Tube is the oldest and second longest metro system in the world, dating from 1863. The system serves 270 stations and was formed from several private companies, including the world's first underground electric line known as the City and South London Railway. Over three million trips are made every day on the Underground network and over 1 billion trips each year. An investment programme is currently attempting to address congestion and reliability issues, including £7 billion GBP or €10 billion Euros of improvements planned for the 2012 Summer Olympics. London has been commended as the city with the best public transportation system. The Docklands Light Railway, which opened in 1987, is a second, more local metro system using smaller and lighter tram-style vehicles which serve Docklands and Greenwich. There is an extensive above ground suburban railway network, particularly in South London, which has fewer Underground lines. London houses Britain's busiest station at Waterloo with over 184 million people using this interchange station complex including Waterloo East station each year. The stations have services to South East and South West London, and also parts of South East and South West England. Most rail lines terminate around the center of London, running into eighteen terminal stations with the exception of the ThamesLink trains connecting Bedford in the north and Brighton in the south via the Luton and Gatwick airports. Since 2007 high-speed Eurostar trains link St. Pancras International with Lille, Paris, and Brussels. Journey times to Paris and Brussels of two-and-a-quarter hours and one hour 50 minutes respectively make London closer to continental Europe than the rest of Britain by virtue of the High Speed 1 rail link to the Channel Tunnel while the first high speed domestic trains started in June 2009 linking Kent to London.
The vast urban area of London is often described using a set of district names, such as Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Wembley and Whitechapel. These are either informal designations reflecting the names of villages that have been absorbed by sprawl or are superseded administrative units such as parishes or former boroughs. Such names have remained in use through tradition, each referring to a local area with its own distinctive character, but without current official boundaries. Since 1965 Greater London has been divided into 32 London boroughs in addition to the ancient City of London. The City of London is the main financial district and Canary Wharf has recently developed into a new financial and commercial hub, in the Docklands to the east. The West End is London's main entertainment and shopping district which attracts tourists. West London includes expensive residential areas where properties often sell for tens of millions of pounds. The average price for properties in Kensington and Chelsea is £894,000 with similar average cost being the case in most of central London. The East End is the area closest to the original Port of London, known for its high immigrant population, as well as for being one of the poorest areas in London. The surrounding East London area saw much of London's early industrial development; now, brownfield sites throughout the area are being redeveloped as part of the Thames Gateway including the London Riverside and Lower Lea Valley, which is being developed into the Olympic Park for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. London's buildings are too diverse in style to be characterized by any particular architectural style, partly due to their varying ages. Many grand houses and public buildings, such as the National Gallery, are constructed from Portland stone. Some areas of the city, particularly those just west of the centre, are characterised by white stucco or whitewashed buildings. Few structures in Central London pre-date the Great Fire of 1666, these being a few trace Roman remains, the Tower of London and a scattered Tudor still survive in the City.
On the 6th of July 2005 at its 117th session in Singapore, the IOC awarded the London Bid with the rights to host the Games of the XXX Olympiad. The city beat out the favourite of Paris in 2012 on the fourth and final ballot to become the first city to host the Games three times. The previous times being for the 1908 Summer Olympics and then again in 1948 for the Summer Olympics. At the time the bid was placed the cost projection was for around £2 billion, but lately many are saying that the actual cost will be well over £9 billion, requiring a major regeneration of the Stratford area of London, as well as improvements to surrounding services and associated venues. Public transport will see numerous improvements, including the London Underground and what is termed the new Olympic Javelin service. Following the successful conclusion of the bid, the London Olympic Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) was established to oversee the ongoing development of the games. The London 2012 bid proposed that the Games take place between Friday the 27th of July 2012 and the 12th of August 2012. These dates were chosen to coincide with the optimum weather conditions and with school holidays. This decision was made because demands on London's facilities would be less when its schools and universities were closed. It would also allow younger people the opportunity to attend the Olympic events. The 2012 Olympics were planned to use a mixture of newly built structures, existing facilities, and temporary facilities in locations such as Hyde Park and Horse Guards Parade. In the wake of the problems that plagued the Millennium Dome, the intention was that there would be no white elephants left to deal with after the games. Some of the new facilities would be reused just as they were, while others would be reduced in size with several others being relocated elsewhere in the UK. The plans would contribute to the regeneration of Stratford in east London which would be the site of the Olympic Park, and of the neighbouring Lower Lea Valley. The location of events for the 2012 Olmypic Games in London will be as follows:
The Olympic Village will be located in Lower Lea Valley in east London. The area is currently underdeveloped, and is a well-suited place to construct the village. Because the Olympic Village will be located within the Olympic Park, about 75 percent of athletes will be within 15 minutes of their venues; this compact design, according to double Olympic decathlon gold medallist Daley Thompson, will make the experience so much more inspirating and real. When the games are over, the Village will be converted into new homes and facilities for the local community.
The Australian construction company Lend Lease Corp. Ltd. has been chosen to build the Olympic Village. The project will cost £5.3 billion GBP or $13.2 billion USD and will be constructed in two phases. The first phase, which involves the development of 4,200 residential buildings and other accommodations for the village began in 2008. When the 2012 Olympics are over, the second phase will involve the refurbishment of the Olympic village and construction on another 500,000 m2 of space to complete the regeneration of Stratford City.
These Olympic Village accommodations will be the most spacious in Olympic history. Each athlete and official is guaranteed their own bed with over 17,000 beds in total. Each apartment will include internet access and wireless networking and other high-tech technology.
The Olympic Zone is to encompass all of the facilities within the 500 acre or 2 km² Olympic Park in Stratford. This park is to be developed on existing waste and industrial land and would be just seven minutes by the Olympic Javelin train from central London. The park will contain:
- The Olympic Stadium, hosting the track and field athletics events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
- The Aquatics Centre, hosting diving, swimming, synchronised swimming and water polo.
- The London Velopark, including a 6,000 seat indoor velodrome for track cycling and a 6,000 seat outdoor BMX racing track.
- The Olympic Hockey Centre, with 15,000 and 5,000 seat arenas, hosting the hockey.
- Four indoor arenas (Olympic Park Arenas 1-4), hosting basketball (2), fencing (4), volleyball (1), handball (3), and the fencing and shooting disciplines of the modern pentathlon (2).
- The London Olympic Village, with accommodations for all athletes and accredited officials (some 17,320 beds in total). After the games the village was planned a become a district of the Stratford City development, a multi-billion pound development project on the former railway goods yard to the east of the Olympic Park.
- The Olympic Press and Broadcast Centres.
- A tennis training centre.
The River Zone featured five main venues in the Thames Gateway area straddling the River Thames:
- The ExCeL Exhibition Centre, for boxing, fencing, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting, and wrestling.
- The Millennium Dome and Greenwich Arena, for badminton, basketball, and gymnastics.
- Greenwich Park, for equestrianism.
- The Royal Artillery Barracks, for shooting.
The Central Zone was formed out of all the remaining venues within Greater London. They are quite widely spread across central and west London:
- The new Wembley Stadium for the football finals.
- The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon for tennis.
- Lord's Cricket Ground for archery.
- Regent's Park for road bicycle racing. Baseball and softball were also due to be hosted in Regent's Park before it was announced in July 2005 that they would be dropped as Olympic events for the London games.
- Horse Guards Parade for beach volleyball.
- Hyde Park for the triathlon.
Outside Greater London
Three of the venues would be just outside Greater London:
- Weald Country Park, Essex for mountain biking
- Broxbourne, Hertfordshire for canoe/kayak slalom
- Dorney Lake, in Buckinghamshire, for rowing and canoe/kayak flatwater.
The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, in Portland Harbour, Dorset on the south coast of England, would be used for the sailing events. It is around 120 miles or 192 kilometers from central London.
The earlier stages of the football competition would be played at football stadia around the country including:
- Hampden Park in Glasgow
- Millennium Stadium in Cardiff
- Old Trafford in Manchester
- St James' Park in Newcastle
- Villa Park in Birmingham
- Windsor Park in Belfast
Official website of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games at www.london2012.com
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