4. London Velodrome, Stratford (London)
The London Velodrome is the jewel of the 2012 Olympics. At every other venue built for the Summer Games, corners were cut. The Olympic Stadium will be downsized and handed over to English soccer club West Ham United. The basketball stadium is basically a shrink-wrapped steel skeleton that will be removed after the Games end. The Aquatics Centre will have its “wings” pulled off to leave a much more modest arena.
But the Velodrome is a piece of art, paneled in western red cedar wood that gives the stadium something lacking from virtually every other venue here: the gravitas of permanency. The Velodrome will certainly not be broken up for spare parts when the Olympics leave, and why should it? This is the venue, more than any other, that the British athletes have owned.
As much as China owns the diving and table tennis and badminton and Korea the archery, Britain owns the cycling track, and for British fans, this real estate is the dearest and most blessed plot of London’s Olympic circus. The atmosphere is raucous, and far more than expectant. Britons do not hope that their cyclists will take gold, they expect it, and they are almost always right.
Britannia once ruled the waves; now it owns the Velodrome.