Watching Sports in London
Sports in the capital are probably best watched rather than participated in. If you're lucky enough to score a ticket for a Premier League football match, you'll experience a seething mass of jeering, mockery, and tribal chanting. Rugby, tennis, horse-racing, and cricket also impinge on Londoners' horizons at crucial times of the year, but you're unlikely to see grown men crying at the outcome of the Wimbledon Men’s Final.
At its best, cricket can be a slow build of smoldering tension and unexpected high-wire excitement. At its worst, it can be too slow and uneventful for the casual observer, as five-day games crawl toward a draw or as rain stops play. But try to visit Lord’s—known as the home of cricket—on match days, just to hear the thwack of leather on willow and to see the English aristocracy and upper middle classes on full display.
Lord's. Lord's Cricket Ground, home of the venerable 1787 Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), has been hallowed cricketing turf since 1814, and MCC rules codified the game. Tickets for major Test matches are hard to come by: obtain an application form online and enter the ballot (lottery) to purchase them. Marylebone Cricket Club, Lord's Cricket Ground, St. John's Wood Rd., St. John's Wood, London, Greater London, NW8 8QN. 020/7432–1000; www.lords.org.
London's top soccer teams—Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, and West Ham—are top-class outfits and the first three often progress in the Europe-wide Champions League. It's unlikely you'll get tickets for anything except the least popular Premier League games during the August–May season, despite the high ticket prices—£50 for a walk-up match-day seat at Chelsea, and £95.50 for the most expensive tickets at Arsenal.
The Boat Race. Join more than a quarter of a million merry devotees along the banks of the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake for a glimpse of the annual Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race, held on the last Saturday of March or the first Saturday of April. Sink a few pints and soak up the tweed-cap-and-Barbour-clad atmosphere as these heavyweight eight-man university crews clash oars and tussle head-to-head for supremacy. First raced in 1829, the 4-mile route is a picturesque stretch between Putney and Chiswick bridges. The equally exciting women's eight Boat Race is also held the same day. Putney Bridge, Putney, London, Greater London, SW6. www.theboatraces.org.
Virgin Money London Marathon. The London Marathon starts at 9:30 am on a Sunday in mid-April, with more than 35,000 athletes running from Blackheath or Greenwich to The Mall. Happy crowds throng the route, with extra cheers for disabled participants. www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com.
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. The All England Club's Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships are famous for Centre Court, strawberries and cream, a gentle spot of rain, and a nostalgic old-school insistence on players wearing white. Thankfully, the rain has been banished on Centre Court by the nifty retractable roof, but whether you can get tickets for Centre Court all comes down to the luck of the draw—there's a ballot system for advance purchase (see website for more details). The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Church Rd., London, Greater London, SW19 5AE. 020/8971–2473; www.wimbledon.com.
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