As the capital city of the United Kingdom, London not only plays host to a myriad of toplevel sporting events, but additionally gives an ideal base for audiences and participants alike of many sporting disciplines. So if you’re running the London marathon, then watching football before sports and shopping at Wembley Stadium, playing tennis at the All-England club or having a flutter on equine action at Sandown Park, London is sure to have some thing to offer you.
Since its beginning in 1981, the London Marathon has become widely recognised as one of the major five international marathon races also attracts runners from all over the world to compete across the 26 miles 385 yards route that winds it way across the metropolis. Beginning Blackheath on the Southside of the River Thames, crossing Tower Bridge and finishing in The Mall, the race encapsulates some of London’s best known sights including the historic ship ‘Cutty Sark’, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace amongst others. Despite being a significant athletic event with a large prize money offering, the London Marathon is perhaps more closely related to club and fun runners who participate in the race – often dressed in bizarre fancy dress costumes – for charity, and the race is currently the premier yearly fund raising event on earth based on race organisers, having amassed over #315 million for good causes.
The yearly FA Community Shield football match came back to Wembley stadium this year after a seven-year stint at Cardiff’s Millennium stadium. The match, played as the traditional curtain-raiser to the new football season can be a major charity fund raiser featuring the winners of the previous season’s league tournament and FA Cup, although with six Premier League clubs in addition to ten lower-league clubs in and around London, football enthusiasts should never be far from a match. Wembley stadium also hosts numerous international matches throughout the football season in addition to several music concerts, usually featuring globally-renowned artists.
Sandown Park hosts regular race meetings throughout the calendar year, for both Flat and National Hunt racing and lots of high-profile races are run over the course in both disciplines, like the Coral Eclipse Stakes, Tingle Creek Chase and the Whitbread Gold Cup, now called the Betfred Gold Cup. Annually the course also holds an yearly Variety Club charity meeting which is among the course’s most popular and high profile events. The Variety Club event draws a host of celebrities to the track, therefore celebrity-spotting produces an extra bonus to the afternoon.
However, shopping is perhaps London’s bestknown sport and the capital is world-renowned because of the shopping areas and famous shops and boutiques. For anyone more interested in this discipline, participants are certainly spoiled for choice. Oxford Street lies in the heart of central London’s busiest shopping district and with over 300 shops is Europe’s largest high street, running for approximately a mile and a half from Marble Arch to St. Giles’ Circus. Home to such stores as Selfridges, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Debenhams and Primark, Oxford Street forms a veritable shoppers’ paradise. Or for something a bit more ‘alternative’, take a wander around Covent Garden or Camden Market where you will remember to pick up some thing out of the standard.