After all the years of planning and hype, the London Olympics are here! Every Olympic Games has its unique features and quirky aspects. Here are five fascinating facts to ponder about the 2012 Olympics in London:
The Olympic beach volleyball will be played on the Horse Guards Parade.
Horse Guards is a famous site in Central London next to Buckingham Palace where several hundred of the queen’s finest horsemen prance around on parade and the queen stands in review in the Trooping the Colour Ceremony each year on her official birthday in June. It’s not exactly a beach, but Olympic organizers are bringing in 2.274 tons of high-quality sand from a quarry in Surrey — enough to supply one competition court, two warmup courts, and two training courts. Also appearing at Horse Guards will be bleachers and nets and all the facilities needed for the scantily clad players, their entourages, the press, and spectators. This is going to be an amazing sight, particularly if there is a cold rain.
Uber-famous footballer David Beckham was not chosen for Britain’s Olympic soccer team.
Even though he was featured in the “hand off” ceremony at the close of the Beijing Olympics (along with red London bus and other British icons), he won’t actually get to play in the London Olympics. From a June 28 announcement, the British public and the London Olympic Organising Committee learned that team manager Stewart Pearce cut Beckham, now 37, from the final roster in favor of a younger player. Although Beckham was gracious in expressing his disappointment and will still be featured in the opening ceremonies, this was a shocking development.
The queen’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips, will be competing for Britain on the equestrian team.
Like her mother, Princess Anne, who competed in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Zara Phillips is a serious horsewoman who competes at an elite level in the sport. Married to a well-known rugby pro last July, Zara has had a good deal of publicity lately. She is a rebellious free spirit with very little prim and properness in her makeup. And luckily for her, the equestrians are not being relegated to outer Slobovia this time, but have a competition site at Greenwich Park right in London, if south of the Thames. During the Beijing Olympics, the equestrians were in Hong Kong — not exactly in the thick of things.
Olympic tennis competition will be held at the All England Lawn Tennis Club just three weeks after the Championships Wimbledon trophies were awarded to Serena Williams and Roger Federer.
The timing of the summer Olympics has always been problematic for the world’s top tennis players, coming just after Wimbledon and just before the U.S. Open — the two most prestigious tournaments of the tennis year. This year the weirdness is further intensified by the fact that the Olympics will be an instant replay of Wimbledon, except with colorful tennis outfits, medals rather than trophies, and the playing of recorded national anthems. At least the players will not have far to travel.
Players like American John Isner, who lost ignominiously in the first round at Wimbledon, will have a chance at redemption sooner rather than later and on the same well-manicured grass courts. In fact, 18 of the top 20 men and 18 of the top 20 women in the world rankings will be playing in the Olympics and having that “Groundhog Day” experience. And mixed up among the world’s very best professional tennis players will be a motley assortment of lesser players allowed in for geographic and international diversity by the Olympic version of a “wild card.” It ought to be fascinating.
Team USA members will wear the same Ralph Lauren navy blazers with white slacks they wore in Beijing.
When you see the members of Team USA enter the stadium during the opening ceremonies in London, you will have a déjà vu double take because the uniform has changed only slightly. It does seem that Lauren could have come up with something other than navy blue blazers with white slacks. The hats this year are beret-like and many commenters feel that they would have been more appropriate for the French team. In the last Summer Olympics, the Team USA hats were in the style of newsboy caps.