Welcome to the London Nolympics

If you failed to get tickets to the main event or just fancy an afternoon off sport, these alternative summer outings in the capital are world class

London 2012. You can't miss it. The stadia – spoilsport no-shows aside – are thronged by cheering fans, the Games Lanes hum with VIP limos, the fetchingly pink Olympic logo is omnipresent in the streets and on our television screens. London is a capital en fête. To fail to celebrate this great occasion would be unpatriotic and churlish. But equally, there are alternatives to all that sweaty Lycra and Chariots of Fire machismo.

Perhaps you've arrived in London with Olympic tickets but crave some non-sporting downtime. Or you're a local in search of a day out that has nothing to do with a certain athletic event that comes round once every four years. Maybe you simply prefer to walk in a park without being interrupted by triathletes sloshing about on the Serpentine.

If so, join us as we celebrate "Nolympic London": a guide to 10 tourist attractions that have little – or better still, nothing – to do with the 2012 Games this summer.

The London Dungeon

Just as the "Great Olympic Traffic Clampdown" is blighting London's roads, so the "Great Stink"– the result of sewers overwhelming the Thames during a particularly hot summer – engulfed the capital in 1858. For reasons that remain obscure, the London Dungeon has chosen 2012 to highlight the less sanitary aspects of city living, with new "scratch and sniff" tours running until 2 September. Visitors will be able to conjure up "the pong of the plague and the charred perfume of a public execution," plus there's a dungeon's worth of scary fun. (thedungeons.com; admission £19)

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 1.8 miles (Horse Guards Parade)

Sporting effort required: limited to potential nausea, as if at the end of a marathon

Olympic themes: prevailing/inhaling against the odds

Nolympic medal rating: ****

BBC Proms

Where the new Olympic venues abound with swooping contemporary architecture, the Albert Hall stands resolute, a red-brick Victorian reminder of the last time Britain was a truly global force. And while the Olympics need four years to recover between shows, the Proms march on: an annual procession of the best of classical music. Just don't look left or right when you pass the nearby Albert Memorial, lest pavilions celebrating the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics or the efforts of the African Olympic Committees catch your eye. (bbc.co.uk/proms; admission varies)

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 0.3 miles (Serpentine, Hyde Park)

Sporting effort required: clapping

Olympic themes: patriotism, particularly on the Last Night (8 September)

Nolympic medal rating: ****

Kew Gardens

On the face of it, the perfect non-sporting day out. Aside from Kew's traditional horticultural delights, the main summer exhibition is by sculptor David Nash, who is producing an array of installations using trees that have come to the end of their natural life. But what's this? A vast outline of the Olympic rings in front of the Orangery? Nolympic points deducted. (kew.org; admission £14.50)

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 3.9 miles (Earls Court)

Sporting effort required: walking, weight-lifting when buying plant pots

Olympic themes: 2,000 flowers arranged in the Olympic logo, visible from the Heathrow flightpath

Nolympic medal rating: ***

James Bond at the Barbican

With all the furore over how little Union-flag red there was in Stella McCartney's Team GB outfits, there was little or no mention of whether they also contained secret jetpacks. A pity, because if James Bond had been competing, he'd have won gold by releasing carpet tacks behind him during the 100m, or hurling a laser-guided shot-put straight into a Soviet competitor's stomach. Instead, fresh from parachuting with the Queen into the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, Bond is celebrated for what he's best at in the new "Designing 007 – Fifty Years of Bond Style" exhibition at the Barbican, which runs until 5 September. It includes costumes, production design, artwork and gadgets, marking 50 years of James Bond film history (barbican.org.uk; admission £12)

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 1.8 miles (Horse Guards Parade)

Sporting effort required: an interest running quickly away from explosions

Olympic themes: opening-ceremony shenanigans with Her Majesty.

Nolympic medal rating: ***

Leicester Square Burger King

Let's make one thing abundantly clear: Burger King has nothing to do with sponsoring the Olympics. So while other well-known burger brands are not eligible for inclusion in our Nolympic round-up, settling down for a Whopper is perfectly fine. Particularly a Whopper with a view of the spin painting by Damien Hirst appropriately titled Beautiful Naked Psychedelic Gherkin Exploding Tomato Sauce All Over Your Face, Flame Grilled Painting (2003), which has just been installed in the second-floor dining room of the Leicester Square branch. (For more Hirst, visit Tate Modern's retrospective, which runs until 9 September, admission £14; tate.org.uk).

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 0.4 miles (Horse Guards Parade)

Sporting effort required: none, unless you count loading up on carbs

Olympic themes: absolutely none (see above)

Nolympic medal rating: ****

Amersham, Buckinghamshire

You've bought a day ticket to the Olympic Park, just to absorb some of the atmos. But look what else you've been given: a free zone 1-9 Travelcard. So once you've boggled at Anish Kapoor's ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture, head out on the Metropolitan line to Amersham, which along with Chesham possesses one of only two Tube stations in Zone 9. Amersham offers a bucolic contrast to the hectic pace of the Olympics – and you'll save yourself the peak Travelcard fare of £19.60.

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 12.8 miles (Eton Dorney)

Sporting effort required: none

Olympic themes: the logo on your Travelcard

Nolympic medal rating: ****

Up at the O2

Oh dear. It turns out that "London's newest and most thrilling visitor attraction" is in fact on top of an Olympic venue. That aside, once you've been kitted out in your "bespoke climbsuit" you can take a 90-minute walk across the 02 roof, while the gymnastics take place below you (in what is, for Olympic sponsorship reasons, currently known as the "North Greenwich Arena"). Stunning views of London include the Thames Barrier, the Shard and Canary Wharf. Just don't glance across at the Olympic Park next door (theo2.co.uk/upattheo2; tickets £22).

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 0 miles

Sporting effort required: a head for heights

Olympic themes: inescapable, given the venue

Nolympic medal rating: lllll

Zip wire at Wembley

Sporty, but in a Nolympic, non-competitive way. Like Up at the O2, the zip wire at Wembley suffers from "associated venue syndrome" but is redeemed by operating from 16-22 August and 22 August-2 September, with the latter dates overlapping with the Paralympic Games. Some stats: you start from 30m up, the wire itself is 200m long, and you'll be travelling at 40km/h, only slightly faster than Usain Bolt usually manages in the 100m (wembleystadium.com/tours; £40).

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 0 miles

Sporting effort required: adrenalin essential

Olympic themes: yes, that's Wembley Stadium below you

Nolympic medal rating: *

Great British Beer Festival, Olympia

Despite the unfortunate name of the venue, this is surely a London Nolympic gold-medal contender. A celebration of what is effectively a performance-decreasing drug, the festival runs from 7-11 August, with more than 800 different real ales, ciders and beers set to feature, plus tastings, live music and food stalls. There's also "Hat Day" on 9 August, where visitors are encouraged to sport extreme headgear (gbbf.org.uk; £8).

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 0.8 miles (Earls Court)

Sporting effort required: none

Olympic themes: dubious venue name

Nolympic medal rating: ****

Shakespeare: Staging the World, British Museum

Even if Team GB fails to muster the expected medal tally, it's reassuring to know that we've long had a solid gold performer. Shakespeare has been the English-speaking world's pre-eminent playwright for centuries (indeed the 400th anniversary of his death will be marked during the next Olympic year: 2016). This exhibition runs until 25 November and provides an insight into Shakespeare's importance in shaping a sense of national identity, using the plays and contemporary objects drawn from around Europe (britishmuseum.org; admission free).

Distance from nearest Olympic venue: 1 mile (Horse Guards Parade)

Sporting effort required: purely cultural

Olympic themes: guaranteed podium finish

Nolympic medal rating: *****

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