With just two years to go until the 2012 Olympic Games, London already has her game face on.Â And while last Tuesday may have marked the official start of the countdown clock, many of the locations and facilities for the Games are already in place. Why not check them out now? Not only will you be able to boast that youâ€™ve been-there and done-that when the time comes, but youâ€™ll skip the crowds and the price gouging.
Hereâ€™s my top ten spots to visit right now â€“ before The Big Smoke gets all smoked out.
UPDATE: A guided walking tour of the Olympic sites is now available via the Visit Britain website.Â Check it out HERE.
1.Â Olympic Park â€“ View Tube
Watch the Olympic Park rise from the ground in front of your eyes. The View Tube is a community venue located on The Greenway, right next to the Olympic Park.Â It includes a cafÃ©, education, arts and information spaces with a panoramic view over the Olympic Park and Stratford City.
2.Â Horse Guards Parade
Located directly across from Buckingham Palace is the Horse Guards Parade, a parade ground that is used daily as the starting point for the famous Changing of the Guard. In 2012, this historic area will be transformed into Londonâ€™s own beach, as the site of the Beach Volleyball events.
3.Â Dorney Lake
Dorney Lake, located just 30 minutes by train from London, is a world-class rowing and canoeing center that will host the Rowing, Flatwater Canoe/Kayak, and Paralympic Rowing events in the 2012 games. Dorney Lake is owned by world-famous Eton College â€“ where Princes William and Harry both studied. Windsor Castle, an official residence of Her Majesty The Queen, is also nearby.
4.Â Hyde Park
Hyde Park, one of Londonâ€™s Royal Parks, will host the Triathlon in 2012.Â This 350-acre park is one of the most well known parks in London, and is home to the horrible Diana Fountain Memorial, a dubious tribute to the late Princess of Wales, as well as Kensington Palace and the Orangery.Â Itâ€™s also a wonderful spot for a picnic on a sunny afternoon.
5.Â North Greenwich Arena
The North Greenwich Arena is a major music and entertainment venue and will host the ever popular, Basketball and Gymnastics events.Â Also known as The O2, in recent years, it has hosted some of the biggest concerts in Europe. In fact, Michael Jackson was slated to play his final â€˜This is itâ€™ concert series here, before his untimely death last year. Before the Games kick off, you wonâ€™t want to miss the British Music Experience â€“ the UKâ€™s most amazing interactive museum of popular music.
6.Â Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour (Englandâ€™s South Coast)
Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour will be the venues for the Olympic and Paralympic Sailing competitions and offer some of the best natural sailing waters in Britain. Situated within Englandâ€™s Jurassic Coast â€“ a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site and the only one on the UK mainland â€“ the unrivaled coastal views are inspiring.
7.Â Greenwich Park
At the east of London is Greenwich Park, which will host the Equestrian, Modern Pentathlon and Paralympic Equestrian events.Â This park is the oldest Royal Park in London, and has close historical ties to the monarchy of King Henry VIII.Â The park is situated on a hill and offers spectacular views of the River Thames and the entire Olympic Park.
8. Trafalgar Square
In the centre of London is Trafalgar Square â€“ one of the most famous squares in the the world. During the Games, this historic gathering spot will be home to one of the cities â€˜live sitesâ€™ â€“an outdoor venue where fans without tickets can watch Olympic events on huge screens and share in the excitement. See it in its original state first and then watch it be transformed in 2012.
The home of the All England Lawn Tennis Club and the setting for the Wimbledon Championships since 1877, this venue will host the Tennis in 2012.Â Located in southwest London, visitors to Wimbledon can enjoy a guided tour of the historic grounds and even have a chance of seeing John McEnroeâ€™s ghost in The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museumâ€™s interactive exhibition.
10.Â Regentâ€™s Park
Visitors to London can take a stroll or bike through Regentâ€™s Park, which will host the Road Cycling events in 2012.Â Another Royal Park, it is also home to the London Zoo â€“ the worldâ€™s oldest.