Olympics: London 2012 to have strawberries and cream factor

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The Independent Online

The London 2012 Olympics will have the feel of an English summer event, organisers said Thursday, bringing the strawberries and cream flavour and the open-air festival spirit to the Games.

The team designing the venues said the atmosphere of unmistakeably British classic sports events like the Wimbledon tennis championships and the Royal Ascot races had been ingrained into their designs.

They want to replicate the English summer culture, when people revel in the chance to enjoy warm weather, long evenings and an outdoor garden party.

The organising committee of the July 27-August 12 Games have also tried to show off the best of the city in their venue design, using the capital's iconic landmarks as a backdrop to competition sites outside the main Olympic Park in east London.

Venues and infrastructure director James Bulley told AFP that the Englishness factor would be a key part of forging a successful Games.

"If you look at some of our annual events running through the summer, whether it's Ascot, the Henley rowing regatta or Wimbledon, they all have a real Britishness about them," he said.

"We're trying to capture that in the designs, the feel and the look and the way in which we'll be able to enable our spectators to enjoy the experience.

"We'll enable that open-air, al fresco, picnicking feel for our spectators to really enjoy the space - and watch the sport, of course."

The LOCOG designers looked at events such as the 1951 Festival of Britain, its delight in post-war innovation and the legacy of buildings it left for London.

They also studied the English love of parks and gardens, the street parties that break out for major national events, and the sheer fun of enjoying the precious summer months.

"This is the scene we want to set," said London 2012 venue designer John Barrow, a senior principal with architects Populous.

His team examined Sydney 2000 and Barcelona 1992 to see what made a successful Olympics.

"So when it came to London, the team said: 'What is quintessentially London, what is quintessentially English?' That's the sort of experience we're trying to drive through," he told AFP.

"It's actually a very simple model. It's park, garden, enjoyment, relaxation.

"All of those things speak to having a lot more fun in the Olympics," he said, otherwise "it won't have that fizz".

The designers have come up with several horseshoe-shaped venues to capitalise on views of London landmarks.

They include the beach volleyball arena in the historic Horse Guards Parade ground and the equestrian centre at Greenwich Park, which open up onto a view of the Royal Naval College and the Canary Wharf business district towers.

"We've chosen fantastic, superb locations in London, we want to showcase them," Bulley said.

"As the broadcast images go out around the world to our four billion viewers, they'll know this is very much a London Games."

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