International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
The attention of the world is firmly focused on London this summer, with some of the most famous corners of the capital turned into sports venues. Here’s where to enjoy it – even if you don’t have a ticket.
With stadium tickets rarer than Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, the next-best bet is to watch the Olympics unfold with the rest of London. Four big outdoor screens are due to be installed in Hyde Park and will be showing events and highlights, with live music performed daily at the Hyde Park Bandstand (28 Jul–11 Aug; admission free).
Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets has installed a ‘Have-A-Go-Zone’ sports court for the summer, where visitors can try their hand at a variety of activities and get some professional coaching. Sports on offer include hockey, lacrosse, judo, wheelchair rugby and basketball. There’s also an observation wheel with views across the Olympic Park (27 Jul–18 Aug; admission free).
Access to the Olympic Park in Hackney Wick is for event ticket-holders only, but the daily guided tours around the perimeter of the park are set to continue throughout the duration of the Games. These tours tell the story of the site’s construction over the past six years, with updates on the goings-on inside the gates too (daily tours 11am and 2pm; tickets £9).
This summer, Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood is using cutting-edge sports equipment and historic memorabilia to investigate what makes an elite athlete successful. Interactive exhibits include a virtual reality skeleton bobsleigh and a ‘beat the clock’ reaction measurement test (until 9 Sep; admission free).
Road to 2012 at The National Portrait Gallery is the culmination of a three-year project to photograph the people and places without whom the Games could not happen. From athletes in their changing rooms and training clubs to stadium construction workers and residents getting ready to welcome the world to their borough, the exhibition records the journey that east London has made (19 Jul–23 Sep; admission free).
The Royal Opera House has linked up with the official Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland to construct an exhibition tracing the story of the Olympics all the way from Ancient Greece to the 2012 festivities, via Baron de Coubertin’s revival in 1894. Expect stories, artefacts, audio and video exhibits, plus examples of all the summer medals since 1896 and the Olympic torches since 1936 (28 Jul–12 Aug; admission free).
Secrets is a series of site-specific art works that see some of the capital’s lesser-known landscapes turned into performance and gallery spaces. Highlights include Fairlop Waters country park in Redbridge with a mix of stone sculpture and sound from composer and musician Mira Calix (21 Jun–9 Sep; admission free).
For the last century, Olympic host cities have commissioned leading artists to design commemorative posters. Six of these have been created by artists including Chris Ofili, Martin Creed and Rachel Whiteread for the London Olympics, and another six for the Paralympics: see them at Tate Britain (21 Jun–23 Sep; admission free).
The launch of the world’s first museum galleries permanently dedicated to performance and installation art is a highlight of the London 2012 Festival, part of the Cultural Olympiad. These former oil tanks to the south of Tate Modern will feature works from acclaimed choreographers, electronic and video artists, and musicians (18 Jul–28 Oct).
Where to stay
The Avo is a chic and modern hotel in Dalston, the latest centre of cool in east London. The design is sleek, with black tiling, chrome fittings and subtle lighting, and the location is great: Dalston’s just a short train or bus journey from both Liverpool Street and Stratford stations (from £80).
The Arran House Hotel in Bloomsbury, made up of two Georgian townhouses, has retained plenty of period feature and has a private rose garden. The owners have dug deep into the houses’ past and written a fascinating history of all the people who have previously lived here (from £125).
The Colonnade Hotel, a handsome Victorian structure situated in central London’s Little Venice, is where Sigmund Freud once sheltered after he fled Vienna in 1938. The guestrooms are light, spacious and relaxing, some with four-poster beds and music centres (from £180).
The nearest tube station to the Olympic Park is Stratford on the Central line (one-day travelcards from £8.40; tfl.gov.uk). Trains run to Stratford International or Liverpool Street stations from Cambridge, Norwich and Ipswich (from £35; greateranglia.co.uk), and Euston from Manchester (from £25; virgintrains.co.uk).