Make no mistake, Olympic Stadium, the centerpiece of the new 600-acre Olympic Park will get plenty of face time during the opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field events, but the understated design focuses on practicality, not Beijing-esque glitz (other, smaller facilities will accomplish that feat).
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The temporary stadium is sited in London's oldest Royal Park, dating back to 1433. The Royal Observatory and the home of Greenwich Mean Time also rest within the park.
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It's not everyday you get to walk on a stingray. But the new aquatics center, nicknamed The Stingray, designed by famed London architect Zaha Hadid offers that chance. The venue, which features a bridge running across the wave-inspired roof of the structure, will welcome more than two thirds of all spectators to the Olympic Park.
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If you didn't think steel and PVC could look interesting, check out the temporary basketball arena, one of the largest temporary structures ever built for the Olympics. Inside, 12,000 spectators can watch the Olympic basketball tournament and the handball finals.
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The Copper Box
It isn't just a clever name. The Copper Box venue, designed for handball and fencing during the modern pentathlon, showcases more than 32,000 square feet of mostly recycled external copper cladding, giving this venue one of the most striking appearances of the London bunch.
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In Essex, the temporary mountain bike course sits within a 550-acre site featuring grassland and woodland. The nearby ruins of the 700-year-old Hadleigh Castle adds some visual intrigue to the location, chosen largely because the varying gradients add in technical difficulties for the competitors.
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Horse Guards Parade
While the venue doesn't serve as a striking architectural display, the backdrop to the beach volleyball event certainly adds plenty of intrigue. Located at Horse Guards Parade, across St. James's Park from Buckingham Palace and near Downing Street, the "beach" features a skyline of historic buildings.
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A grandstand will afford spectators the chance to watch marathon swimming and the triathlon finish within Hyde Park, easy walking distance from London's famed West End.
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Lee Valley White Water Centre
The 1,000-acre River Lee Country Park near Hertfordshire (about 18 miles north of Olympic Park) will feature a nearly 1,000-foot competition canoe slalom course and a 500-foot training course fed by a 2.5-acre lake.
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Open-air BMX stadium
Located in the northern section of Olympic Park, the new 1,300-foot BMX Track will host two BMX events during the Games. The vivid velodrome sits behind the open-air BMX stadium.
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The new temporary Riverbank Arena will host field hockey during the Games. The "London Blue" color of the playing field is meant to contrast with the yellow ball of the game, all while the Olympics' bright pink color will highlight the ring of the pitch. This will be the first time Olympic hockey has been played on a different color pitch than green. All hail Boise State.
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The Royal Artillery Barracks
Expect plenty of shooting and archery at the new, temporary site of 36 Olympic events on the edge of Woolwich Common in southeast London, nearby to Greenwich Park.
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It isn't hard to figure out where the velodrome got its nickname, The Pringle. With an exterior resembling the popular chip, the Hopkins Architects' design is being lauded as the most sustainable venue in Olympic Park. During an Olympic test event, the place received positive reviews from riders.
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Water Polo Arena
Located close to the Aquatics Centre within one of the most compact areas of Olympic Park in the southeast corner near the Olympic Stadium, the temporary Water Polo Arena has just enough room for 5,000 seats around the competition pool and a second warm-up pool. Ancillary operations for the arena will actually take place at the Aquatics Centre.
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