When the eyes of the world turned to London for the 2012 Olympics, it showed yet again why the capital has a reputation as one of the world’s leading sporting cities, and with the 2015 Rugby World Cup now less than a year away, London will be the focus again.
Sports historian and writer Simon Inglis’ latest book Played in London – Charting the heritage of a city at play analyses the many aspects of London’s sporting history: “I think [London] is the most iconic [city]. Many sports have been invented in London and some even have their headquarters here.” Inglis explained.
The book explores London’s rich sporting legacy from its Roman heritage, such as the site of the original amphitheatre where the Guildhall Art Gallery now stands, to its modern architectural sites, pointing out which stadiums have achieved iconic status and why. The city has many of the most important and legendary sporting venues in Wembley (football), Twickenham (rugby) and Lords’ (cricket).
Speaking about his research for the book, Inglis revealed that he visited many of the venues of the more than 3,500 sports clubs around London to speak to staff.
He said his favourite venue was Lord’s Cricket Ground, even though he described himself as not much of a cricket fan.
Inglis has a clear view of why London has achieved its iconic status: “It’s purely because of the size that London has the biggest attraction. With a city of eight million people, London will always be one of the sporting capitals.The reason for this magnitude is the money. London thrives financially and this makes advertisers and promoters want to come to here.”
The book has information on many of London’s former great sporting sites. When asked about some of the iconic venues that have been torn down around London, Inglis explained: “A lot of the lost venues will still be remembered by the historians and are well documented. Many of the historic venues still have plaques in honour of their original site.
“Those venues have become ceremonial and won’t be completely forgotten. However I think the White City Stadium that was used to host the 1908 Summer Olympics could have been remembered in a better way before it was torn down. The venue was very significant to London’s Olympic history and many people that walk by everyday won’t have a clue that London’s first Olympic was hosted there,” he said.
Inglis believes that London’s public transport also helps make the city a prime target for sporting events as it can move people from their accommodation to the venues with relative ease.
And the historian looks forward to the 2020 European Football Championships (Euro) final at Wembley: “The role of sporting capital of the world will bring London even more economic success and will continue to inspire and encourage people to do more sport.”
When asked about the future of the city and where it will lead, Inglis believes that “London will gain more in the future, even when its under threat from other cities in China and South America because their economies are growing and soon enough they will be able to build these expensive venues to promote their cities so I think a lot of cities in Europe will face competition. But I don’t think the architecture within London can ever be forgotten.”