A man bored of London is bored of Life

A Sporting City

London: a sporting city

·         London loves sport. Playing it. Watching it. Supporting it. There are few cities where sport is so much a part of the culture, spirit and lifestyle. Sport in the city can mean many things, from a prestigious World Cup final to a kick-around in a park. That's because sport isn't just something we watch, it's something we do.

·         Take the London Marathon, for example. Around half-a-million people lining the city streets to watch, 40,000 actually running the race (although 80,000 apply to compete) and 7,000 more volunteering to help and support. It's one of the biggest days in London's calendar.
It's impossible to list everything that sporting London offers. Instead, for a flavour, take just one corner - the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

·         In summer months you'll find the London Archers practising in Kensington Palace Gardens. They form one of the capital's biggest archery clubs. Across the road is the Albert Hall, site of many famous boxing bouts and, in 1991, sumo's first grand basho outside Japan in 1,500 years. It also hosts tennis tournaments, and, once, a display by Olympic ice-skating gold medallist John Curry.

·         Within walking distance is Chelsea Football Club's 42,500-capacity Stamford Bridge stadium, plus two major public sports centres, offering local residents everything from swimming to squash, trampolining to table tennis.

·         And through the borough runs the River Thames, venue for rowing meets, including the world-famous University Boat Race, which has been staged since 1829 and is now watched by an estimated global TV audience of 400 million.

·         One thing links all these sports and venues: enthusiasm. Whether as competitors or spectators, officials or volunteers, amateurs or professionals, Londoners' passion for sport is clear.

·         London has witnessed many of the world's greatest sporting moments, played out in some of the world's greatest sporting venues.

·         It's one of the few cities in the world where venue names alone embody a sport: Wimbledon, Wembley, Lord's, Twickenham. Each of them resonates with history and sporting excellence. All of them contribute to a sporting calendar which sees world-class action in the city every single week. Tens of thousands come to watch; millions more follow through the media.

·         Top of any list must come football. England is the game's spiritual home, and London its modern centre. It can boast 12 professional clubs, from Premier League, and European, giants such as Arsenal and Chelsea down to smaller teams such as Leyton Orient.

·         Twickenham is home of England's reigning world champion rugby team and a famous stage for Six Nations and other international matches. It hosted several games in the 1999 World Cup.

·         Cricket is played right in the heart of the city, with Lord's and The Oval hosting both Test matches and One-Day Internationals, including games in the 1999 World Cup. Tennis has Wimbledon, rowing the River Thames.

·         And ringing the capital, within quick and easy commutes, are countless more world-class venues. Facilities which will be used in 2012, such as the Rowing lake at Eton Dorney. But also those which make up the country's sporting fabric: Epsom, home of the Derby; Henley and its annual regatta; and Hickstead for three-day eventing.

 London Olympic Hopefuls

Here are just four of the London-based youngsters who could be going for gold in 2012:

Perri Shakes-Drayton - age 18, hurdles, from Tower Hamlets and Victoria Park Harriers.

This popular hurdler has been gobbling up medals since she was Great Britain's leading under-17. In 2006 she represented Britain's under-20s at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Beijing, ranking number 8 in the 400m hurdles. At the same games she achieved a personal best of 57.52 seconds and is presently ranked third in Europe. She's also studying psychology, PE, philosophy and ethics at Bishop Challoner sixth-form college.

Ali Jawed - age 18, powerlifting, from Wood Green Weightlifting Club.

Born in Lebanon and living in Tottenham, Jawad has won the British Championships three times. He's the British and European junior record holder, having lifted a staggerig 165kg, and is ranked second in the world at the under-23 level. He won gold in his category at this year's European Junior Championships and, remarkably, also finished fourth in the seniors.

Chrystall Nicoll - age 21, fencing, from Brentwood Fencing Club.

Nicoll, from Brentwood, began fencing 10 years ago at an evening class. She was the champion in 2004 at the Commonwealth Fencing Games in Australia and is ranked number 70 in the world.

Jamie Ruiz - age 19, hockey, from Surbiton Hockey Club.

Ruiz was with Fulham Football Club's Academy for 5 years. Since taking up hockey at Kingston Grammar School, however, he has won England honours at under-16, under-18 and under-21 levels while turning out for Surbiton. He was part of the British team beaten in the final of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. In September he goes to Nottingham University to study geography and will play for Beeston.

 

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© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.