The Year of London
BY Matthew Breen
May 18 2012 8:00 AM ET
The London Olympic Stadium
Doubtlessly, hosting the Olympics is a massive task. Long before the national anthems are played and before bunting and garlands go up, there are venues to erect, public transportation to reinvigorate, and an Olympic Park to build. The massive face-lift of the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, was just a hint at the scale of the undertaking. What was an industrial park for 400 years will ultimately become, post-games, the largest urban park in the U.K. Before its overhaul, the site had been derelict for decades. The ground, once used as a domestic and industrial landfill, was razed, cleaned, and replaced, and built up with sporting venues, a usable wetlands park, the Olympic Stadium, an athletes’ village, and the site for a 114-meter tall tower-restaurant (Britain’s tallest sculpture), designed by artist Anish Kapoor. The games kick off July 27.
Before any of that fuss begins in earnest, the United Kingdom and all the countries of the British Commonwealth (that’s 54 independent member states) will be celebrating a milestone. Reigning over the U.K. for 60 years is an immense feat, especially in the six decades that have arguably seen the most significant cultural changes in the kingdom’s history. And it’s not a milestone likely to be repeated anytime soon. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is celebrating that accomplishment with her Diamond Jubilee in June. The only monarch to have lasted longer is Queen Victoria at nearly 64 years, and Elizabeth, who is pretty spry for her 85 years of age, looks like she’s gunning for the record. The queen will make merry with a derby, a flotilla of 1,000 ships on the Thames, a BBC concert at Buckingham Palace, a bank holiday weekend June 2-5, and lots and lots of photo ops.