In July 2005 London was chosen to host the Games in 2012. London will be the first city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times. London will also host one of the world’s largest mass-participation marathons, the London Marathon.
The most popular spectator sport in London is football (soccer to us), and London has several of England’s leading football clubs. Historically the London clubs have not accumulated as many trophies as those from the North West of England, such as Liverpool and Manchester United, but at present Arsenal (founded at Woolwich Arsenal but moved to Highbury in 1913), and Chelsea (who play in Fulham) are regarded as two of the Premier League’s “Big three” alongside Manchester United. In 2003-04 they became the first pair of London clubs to finish first and second in the top flight, with Arsenal winning. In 2004-05 they did so again, this time with Chelsea winning.
London clubs are able to charge higher ticket prices than clubs in other parts of the country (particularly for corporate facilities), and this has swung English football’s balance of power towards London. Before Chelsea’s recent rise in fortunes the two highest profile London clubs were Arsenal and their long-standing North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, both of whom were considered to be members of English football’s “Big five” for most of the post-war period. In 2005-06 there are six London clubs in the Premier League: Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea, plus Charlton Athletic, Fulham and West Ham United.
There are also five London clubs in the fully professional Football League (the level below the Premiership), namely Brentford, Crystal Palace (who play in South Norwood), Leyton Orient, Millwall and Queens Park Rangers (QPR)—all of whom have previously played in the top division. In a controversial move, Wimbledon left London in 2003 to play in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, changing their name to Milton Keynes Dons; the newly formed AFC Wimbledon inherited most of their support, despite playing at a much lower level in the football pyramid. There are also numerous London clubs playing outside the top four divisions of English football, one or two of which are fully professional and many of which are part-time professional.
Wembley Stadium in north-west London is the national football stadium, traditionally the home of the FA Cup Final as well as England national side’s home matches. Currently, Wembley is being completely rebuilt, so Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium has been the venue for recent FA Cup finals, while England play at various venues around the country. Wembley was one of the venues for the 1966 World Cup, and the 1996 European Championship, and hosted the final of both tournaments. It also was the venue for the European Cup final in 1968, 1978 and 1992. As well as football matches, Wembley has hosted many other sporting events, including the Rugby League Challenge Cup final.
Rugby Union is also well established in London, especially in the middle-class suburbs to the north and west of the city. The English national Rugby Union stadium is in Twickenham. Three of the twelve clubs in the elite Guinness Premiership have London origins. London Irish, Saracens and Wasps share football grounds just outside the boundaries of Greater London, but in the metropolitan area. Harlequins, relegated to National Division One after the 2004/05 season, still play in Greater London. The Northern England based sport of rugby league has maintained a top division club now known as Harlequins Rugby League in the capital in recent years as part of its expansion efforts. However, the club has struggled to be viable; partly because of this, it entered into a business partnership with the long-established union club of the same name in 2005.
There are also London teams in the top-flight British leagues in ice hockey (London Racers) and basketball (London Towers), but neither of these sports draws nearly the large number of spectators that football and rugby union do.
There are two Test cricket grounds: Lord’s, home of Middlesex and the Marylebone Cricket Club, located in the leafy suburb of St John’s Wood, just north of Regent’s Park; and The Oval, home of Surrey, in South London.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, home of the Wimbledon Championships, is in Wimbledon in South West London.
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