Even before the first athletes take the podium, this year’s Olympic games have already set a record. London is the only city to host the Olympics three times in the modern era.
The fact that London has hosted the games more than any other city — it also hosted the 1908 and 1948 games — speaks volumes about its status as a world capital that embodies the Olympic spirit.
A GLOBAL ICON
Double-decker buses, tea time, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. All these are symbols of London, a place that has been a center of wealth and political power for centuries.
London is believed to have been settled by Romans more than 2,000 years ago on the River Thames. Since then, it has been the site of some of history’s most important moments, from the famous decisions of the British royal family to the influential plays of Shakespeare and the air raids of World War II.
Its status as a military, cultural and financial capital changed the entire Western world, especially as Great Britain’s influence expanded around the globe. There was a time when, quite literally, the sun never set on the lands ruled from London.
A NEW CITY
London has changed a lot since its time as the capital of a far-flung global empire that reached its peak in the 19th century. It’s still a city that embraces its important place in history, but it also has become more cosmopolitan and modern than many people could have imagined just a few decades ago.
London’s population has reached nearly 8 million people who come from all around the world. According to the National Centre for Language, more than 300 different languages are spoken in London, making it one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities. You can also see the face of the new London in its eyecatching modern architecture, including the London Eye — a giant Ferris wheel that has changed the city’s skyline — and the skyscraper at 30 St. Mary Axe, commonly called the Gherkin.
A LASTING IMPRESSION
This year’s Olympics are also going to leave their mark on the city. Part of the reason London was chosen to host the games for an unprecedented third time is that the city planned for how the Olympic Village and city infrastructure would improve life for London’s residents and visitors for many decades to come.
Apartments built to house the athletes, for example, will become affordable housing for low-income residents of London, and the city’s famous subway system — commonly called the “tube” or the “underground” — is being upgraded to deal with increased traffic loads both during and after the Olympics.