The Venue

The Olympic 10K Marathon Swim is held in the Serpentine in Hyde Park in the center of London.

In 1730 Queen Caroline ordered the damming of the River Westbourne in Hyde Park as part of a general redevelopment of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. At that time, the Westbourne formed eleven natural ponds in the park. During the 1730s, the lake filled to its current size and shape. The redevelopment was carried out by Royal Gardener Charles Bridgeman, who dammed the Westbourne to create the artificial lake, and also dug a large pond in the centre of Kensington Gardens (the Round Pond) to be a focal point for pathways in the park.

See the Olympic Course in 3D
The video below depicts the Olympic Marathon Swimming Course in aerial and  3D perspectives.

At the time of construction, artificial lakes were long and straight. The Serpentine was one of the earliest artificial lakes designed to appear natural, and was widely imitated in parks and gardens nationwide. Little did anyone know during the lake’s first 275 years that its shape would provide a highly technical course for the world’s fastest open water swimmers at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The number of ticketed (paid) seats around the finish of the Olympic Marathon Swimming 10km is 3,000. With an estimated 30,000 other spectators milling about the venue in a free event at the Olympics, full Olympic security measures will be in place.

Hyde Park is one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers’ Corner. The Serpentine (also known as the Serpentine River) is a 28-acre recreational lake within the park that was created in 1730. From a spectator’s perspective, the athletes will be easy to watch.

Unlike other open water races, the swimmers will hear, see and feel a crush of humanity, the pressure of tens of thousands of spectators ringing the compact 10km 6-loop course. Never before have open water swimmers been faced with swimming in a fish bowl the size of the Serpentine with all eyes gazing upon them.

Looking down the lake from Serpentine Bridge, the swimmers can glimpse the Houses of Parliament. Buckingham Palace is a bit lower down, but they will not be able to see the royal residence from the water. The turn buoys they will see will be the biggest, coolest elements on the lake with bright Olympic logos

They will be able to see people…lots of people around the lake…in one of the most accessible 10km events for spectators ever, never mind the Olympics,” explains Colin Hill, Marathon Swimming Technical Operations Manager for Olympic 10km Marathon Swim. “With one area set aside for ticketed spectators, the rest of the lake is free to view. It’s in the heart of London close to Buckingham Palace with good underground access such as Knightsbridge & Hyde Park Corner.”

He adds, “Of course the swimmers are not the first ones to swim in the Lake created by King George II for Queen Caroline. The Serpentine Swimming Club have been going since strong 1864.”

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