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Thursday, 23 June 2005, 12:00AM

History of Sport in London

Marc Belben

The idea for a lecture about the history of sport in London came about with the news that London was making a bid to hold the Olympic Games in 2012. It has always been believed that the only city in this country to have a chance of hosting the games is London. The lecture will look at London's fantastic sporting history and will show that if the choice were to be purely based on sporting tradition, then London would be the clear favourite. The city has hosted the games on two previous occasions - 1908 and 1948 and the lecture includes some of the highlights of those games. This lecture shows that London already hosts major sporting events on a yearly basis. These include Wimbledon, London Marathon, Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race, Epsom Derby, World Matchplay Golf, 1 Day Internationals and Test Matches(Cricket), FA Cup Final(when the new Wembley opens), Six Nations Rugby Internationals plus International Football matches and Premiership matches. This country is responsible for either inventing or codifying some of the world's most popular spectator sports. The English invented Football, Rugby, Tennis and Cricket, the Scots - Golf; other sports or games that have their foundations here include billiards and snooker, lawn bowls, boxing, darts, hockey, squash and table tennis. Many of the associations were set up here in London. We'll look at the origins of some of these sports and their connections to London. Eg Football(the most popular sport in the world) as it is played today started in the 19th century when the Football Association was founded in London but there are records of it being played in the 12th century in the fields that surrounded the City of London. The game was so rough(pitches could be several miles long and teams as much as 500 per side) that various Kings banned it. At first Football and Rugby were basically the same game until the 19th century when two separate associations were set up. Cricket has its spiritual home at Lord's and many great matches have also been played at the Oval. Lawn Tennis originates from the game of Real Tennis(still played at Lord's and Hampton Court Palace) and its spiritual home is in Southwest London at Wimbledon. Centre Court is now only ever used for the two weeks of Wimbledon. The only exception to this would be if London wins the Olympic bid and Centre Court would of course host the finals of the Olympic Tennis Championships... This lecture was part of Friendship Week, put together by the organisation London Higher on behalf of the 2012 Olympic Bid Team; Visit www.london2012.org.uk for more information.

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