7 Olympic Events + 7 London Attractions = The Everyman's DIY Olympic Schedule

 @MarkJohansonIBT
on August 03 2012 10:28 AM
Olympic Rings
Olympic rings Reuters

So you're not an Olympian. You can't flip upside down, leap from a high dive or ride a jumping horse. Here's some news: You're not alone. But that doesn't mean you can't get in on the action this summer in London. For the DIY-inclined, here's how you can turn everyday London attractions into your own schedule of Olympic events.

Track & Field Medal: Race up the stairs of St. Paul's Cathedral.

The
The stairs at St Paul's Cathedral (creative commons/kincuri)

Nothing screams Olympian feat like a race up 530 steps to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral, once Britain's tallest building. Its golden dome, one of the most recognizable features on the London skyline, was completed in 1710 and has played witness to momentous events such as Winston Churchill's funeral and Prince Charles' wedding to Lady Diana. The storied church's first 259 steps lead to the whispering gallery. The final 271 take you to the top of the dome where spectacular views of London await.

Gymnastics Medal: Take a parkour class at Abbey Road, Vauxhall or Elephant and Castle.

Parkour
Parkour Generations (Facebook)

What better way to explore a city than jumping all over it, turning walls, staircases and railings into your own personal jungle gym. If you mix the vault, parallel bars, pommel horse and balance beam in a pot, you've got yourself the new sport of parkour. Parkour Generations, the world's largest collective of parkour professionals, offers classes at various locations throughout London each month from Vauxhall to Abbey Road and Elephant and Castle. All -- including those with an inability to stick landings -- are welcome to join in.

Rowing Medal: Paddle down Regents Canal.

Kayakers
Kayakers on Regent's Canal (creative commons/wirewiping)

Zip down Regent's Canal through Little Venice and past the London Zoo's Giraffe House toward the buzz of Camden Town with London Kayak Tours. Lead by a highly qualified team of British Canoe Union Instructors, you can challenge yourself while taking in some of the best sights in town. If it all sounds far too exhausting, however, simply hire a canal boat from the Floating Boater and enjoy the scenic waters with fruit skewers, scones and a glass of Prosecco.

Cycling Medal: Roam London's secret gardens on Barclays Cycle Hire.

Barclays
Barclays Cycle Hire (creative commons/vitimandave)

London was one of the early adaptors to the bike share fad that's now cycling into cities around the globe. Essentially, it works like this: Pay a small fee, grab one of the 5,000 bikes from any docking station, and return it to either the same station or one of the hundreds of others around central London 24 hours a day. Once you get your wheels, Barclays recommends a 6.7 mile tour of London's Secret Gardens from Holland Park to Chelsea Physic Garden on the Thames. Unlike Olympic athletes, a leisurely pace is recommended.

Swimming/Diving Medal: Take a dip or dive at Hampstead Heath Ponds.

Hampstead
Hampstead Heath Ponds (creative commons/remember to blink)

There are three ponds hidden in the foliage at Hampstead Heath, all of which you might mistake for the backyard of some distant relative's country estate: one for men, one for women and one where the two may meet. The creaky boardwalks over the murky waters play host to numerous amateur dive-offs, while the ponds themselves offer wide expanses for avid swimmers. A beautiful setting and quirky, dedicated troupe of regulars -- human and animal alike -- set this swimming hole apart from all others in the British capital.

Fencing Medal: Sausage sabre at the pub.

Bangers
Bangers and Mash (creative commons/snapperwolf)

Here's the deal: A typical plate of bangers and mash -- that most British of meals -- comes with two giant bangers. Take one sausage sabre for yourself, and give the other to your mate. Trying not to create too much of a scene, commence the food fencing. First banger in the mash loses, and, like any good fencing match, make sure to wear protection (any quality bib should suffice).

Equestrian Medal: Take a ride through Hyde Park.

Hyde
Hyde Park horse riding (creative commons/thewolf)

When all the obscure sports we forget about for four years are suddenly thrust into the spotlight once again at the Olympic Games, it gets us common folk dreaming that we too can be gymnasts, modern pentathaletes or equestrian horse riders. If the latter is your new raison d'être, head to the Hyde Park Stables, and mount up. Hyde Park's Rotten Row was once the most fashionable equestrian venue in England. Now, it's Central London's best school for riders of all skill levels from pony prancers to gold medal jumpers.

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