Looking for a way to escape the Olympic fever in London? David Bowden has some suggestions to make your trip worthwhile
IF London is getting too congested or you want to watch different sports at the Olympic Games or explore new areas of the United Kingdom, here’s the lowdown on some out-of-town Olympic sporting venues.
However, don’t think that things will be less crowded than they are in London. Public transport will be put to the test and security will be tight, similar to those applied when boarding a plane — you will not be allowed to bring in liquids of more than 100ml (empty containers are okay and you can refill these inside the venue). Visa card is the only acceptable credit payment on official sites.
Football is one of the most popular Olympic sports among Malaysian viewers, with the women’s teams comprising the full national teams and the men’s being their U23 teams.
The tournament actually started before the official opening ceremony so that all the games could be completed within the two weeks or so of the competition. There are six football venues located across the country.
Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium has long been the home for Welsh rugby but football has taken centre stage during the London Olympics.
Eleven football matches have been played at the Welsh stadium with the bronze medal for women’s football being contested tomorrow night at the Millennium Stadium.
The stadium that can house 74,000 fans is located near one of the most exciting urban rejuvenation projects in the world.
Cardiff Bay is now a thriving tourist and entertainment area that is injecting new life into Wales which is best known for its castles and lush countryside.
Europe’s largest waterfront development has been made possible by the construction of the Cardiff barrage which impounds the Rivers Taff and Ely.
Visitors to the area should check out Techniquest Science Discovery Centre, Butetown History and Arts Centre and the acclaimed international Wales Millennium Centre housing renowned art. Families can let their hair down in the Atlantic Wharf Leisure Village.
While there are only 320,000 residents in Cardiff, it is well equipped to cater to tourists with 150 pubs, 125 hotels and 73 restaurants, many of which are located around Cardiff Bay.
Dedicated football fans would have seen quite a lot of the United Kingdom by following the football tournament as matches were also played in Coventry, Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, St. James Park in Newcastle, Old Trafford in Manchester and Wembley Stadium in London where the finals will be played this weekend.
The Olympic rowing events have been conducted at Eton Dorney near the royal town of Windsor, 40km to the west of London in Buckinghamshire. The 175ha estate belongs to the famous Eton College and non-Olympic events here include visiting the college which dates back to 1440.
It was founded by King Henry V1 and hour-long tours are conducted at 2pm and 3.15pm daily during school holidays and on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the school year.
The 15th Century Dorney Court is located nearby and adjacent to this is the 13th Century St. James Church and both are worth visiting.
For those who enjoy a little exercise, the Thames Trail adjacent to the River Thames is worth exploring. The trail follows the river and the section from Henley to Runnymede is very picturesque. Other attractions in the area include Cliveden National Trust Gardens and Royal Windsor Racecourse.
Eton Dorney is accessible via railway stations at Maidenhead, Windsor, Slough, Burnham and Eton Riverside. Buses connect each station to the rowing/canoe circuit.
WIND IN ITS SAILS
Escape the city and head to the Dorset coast in England’s southwestern where the sailing events have been staged over the past week in Weymouth and Portland.
The Dorset coastline, often referred to as the Jurassic Coast (due to the geological age of the rocks in the area), is one of the most beautiful in the country and is dotted with picturesque villages.
Its chalky downs, pebble beaches and limestone cliffs attract many holidaymakers to Dorset. Visitors to the Olympic site can try booking accommodation in Weymouth and Portland or travel further afield and stay in Bridport, Dorchester, Bournemouth or even in the historic village of Shaftesbury.
Literary fans could also choose to stay in Lyme Regis and visit sites such as The Cobb (harbour wall) that featured in John Fowles’ famous novel and movie The French Lieutenant’s Women.
The small town was also central to Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion. Much of the Dorset coast is of such world importance that Unesco has gazetted it as a World Heritage Site.
Other noted literary luminaries who resided in Dorset include Thomas Hardy, Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame) and John Le Carre. It’s possible to visit Thomas Hardy’s Cottage located in Higher Bockhampton east of Dorchester.
Dorset is accessible by train from London to Exeter St. David’s and directly into Weymouth on the southwest main line. Heritage trains also operate in Dorset and there are ferry connections from Poole to France and from Weymouth to the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey and St. Malo.
WHITE WATER ADVENTURES
For the past week, the new Lee Valley White Water Centre has hosted 125 elite athletes from 30 nations with the canoe sprints finals being staged tomorrow.
What was once the Broxbourne White Water Canoe Centre has been revitalised for the Olympic canoe slalom with the flatwater canoeing and kayaking being staged at Dorney Lake.
Lee Valley is located just on the edge of London between Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire and Waltham Abbey in Essex. It forms part of the 40 sq km River Lee County Park. For those who don’t want to travel to the site from London, stay in nearby hotels such as the Best Western The Bell Hotel, Cheshunt Marriott or the Travelodge Cheshunt.
For non-Olympic activities, drop by the Royal Gunpowder Mills dating back to the 17th Century where gunpowder used to be made. In addition to the exhibitions detailing the production of gunpowder and the history of the mills, there is a nature reserve.
Details on all Olympic events, including those in out of town destinations, at www.visitlondon.com, including the section entitled journey planner for the best, cheapest and most efficient way to access all the Olympic venues.