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During the 2012 Games in London, thousands of fans will gather at parks and plazas in 22 towns and cities across the United Kingdom to watch the action live on massive LED screens ranging from 25sqm to 144sqm.

The festivities, called Live Sites, aim to give the nail-biting athletic competitions maximum exposure. For visitors, these British bacchanalias will also offer a rare glimpse of the national psyche up close.

Promised as part of the city's winning bid for the 2012 Games, the public gatherings will pop up in Belfast, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Cardiff among others, and there will be six sites in London. The screens will debut with the opening ceremonies on 27 June, but their broadcasting times will vary and be more limited than what is offered on television, so it is important to look up schedules in advance.

Hyde Park's Live Site, the largest in London (expecting up to 50,000 visitors) will show every Olympic medal event, but will not show the Paralympics. East London's Victoria Park will also only be showing the Olympics, but unlike Hyde Park, it will broadcast the opening and closing ceremonies as well as all of the medal events.

Potters Fields Park, next to City Hall, tops the other two sites by delivering a full London 2012 offering, screening all medal events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies for both the Olympics and the Paralympics (which run from 29 August to 9 September). Trafalgar Square's Live Site will only run during the Paralympics, providing coverage of all medal events and the opening and closing ceremonies.

Two additional London sites, the boroughs of Waltham Forest and Woolwich, will provide highlights coverage and the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, but not medal or ceremony coverage of the Paralympics. These sites will have less elaborate productions, but also less enormous crowds in attendance.

Admission to Live Sites is free, but high-demand events, such as the opening ceremonies broadcast on the night of 27 July, require tickets booked through Ticketmaster, which will typically charge a £3 fee to reserve up to four tickets per event. Schedules are listed by location and date at the London 2012 website's What's On page.

Elsewhere in London, six less elaborate big screen viewing areas are being run by the Royal Parks, including Regent's Park and Greenwich Park. See details at the Royal Parks website.

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