Two hundred years ago the Duke of Wellington commanded the British Army from here; in the 21st century the first Polo Championships were held at Horse Guards Parade ... which is more usually known for Trooping the Colour ...
|Trooping the Colour pre 2012|
... that military ceremony dating back to the 18th century, when the colours (flags) of the battalion were carried (or “trooped”) down the ranks so they could be seen and recognised by the soldiers.
From 18th June 2012 Horse Guards will be being converted into the Beach Volley Ball venue for the Olympic Games ... whatever next?
|Horse Guards Parade - the sand is being spread about|
Sand will be ‘imported’ ... fortunately we have sand near Heathrow ... so a mere 2,500 tonnes (4,115 tons) will be trucked in to create a beach at this historic Tudor Jousting site.
The work for the latest and last build of the 2012 Olympics could not begin until after Trooping the Colour, now combined with the annual celebration for Her Majesty the Queen’s official birthday – this year on 16th June 2012.
|The Royal Family on the balcony|
after Trooping the Colour 2012
Although the Queen was born on 21 April, it has long been the tradition to celebrate the Sovereign’s birthday publicly on a day in the summer, when good weather is more likely.
The Household Division (Foot Guards and Household Cavalry) are responsible for Trooping the Colour, while the troops still remain fully trained at Her Majesty’s Service.
|A mounted trooper|
Horse Guards parade was formerly the site of the Palace of White Hall’s tiltyard, where tournaments (including jousting) were held in the time of Henry VIII (five hundred years ago) .... then his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, had her annual birthday celebrations there on 7th September.
The Palace of White Hall was the main residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698, when all except Inigo Jones’s 1622 Banqueting House was destroyed by fire.
Before the fire it had grown to be the largest palace in Europe, with over 1,500 rooms – larger than the Vatican and Versailles. William III, Prince of Orange, was on the throne at the time – Mary his wife (William and Mary) had died in 1694.
Since the 17th century it was used for a variety of reviews, parades and other ceremonies ... and was once the Headquarters of the British Army – The Duke of Wellington was based in Horse Guards when he was Commander-in-Chief.
|Massed bands playing at a Trooping the Colour|
During the 20th century it became a car park ... being known as the ‘Great Perk’ – but the Provisional IRA’s mortar attack on 10 Downing Street in 1991 ... finally led to the announcement that car parking on Horse Guards parade would be ended.
The 1st London Polo Championships in 2009, with a host of teams from around the world, were held on the parade ground.
|Competitors in action .... testing|
2012 heralds another type of tournament – which will almost certainly be a once off for at least one hundred years, if not a millennia, more probably ever – the hosting of the Beach Volley Ball Competition at the Summer Olympics.
Horse Guards had a test run last August ... the construction was different in scale to that occurring as I post ... a centre court was built in the actual Olympic position, 1,500 seats were erected, the sand was brought in ...
|Elizabeth I - what would she think?|
... the technology was tested, the sport was tried out, the venue was ‘cleared down’ without leaving an imprint (an essential to the plan)...
... the initial drafts were confirmed, allowing time before the actual build, to be detailed up, bearing in mind the short construct time – 36 days instead of the usual 14 months.
|The Mall during 2012|
The kilometre long Mall (0.62 mile) – synthetic iron oxide pigment giving the Mall that red carpet effect – will once again be festooned with - this time - Olympic bunting ...
... now Horse Guards will hold a centre court, two warm-up courts, six training courts, seating for 15,000 ... along with paraphernalia required for an arena, a broadcast site etc ...
|Beach Volley Ball arena in preparation|
... a further 3,000 seats will be added on the Mall which will see the start and finish of the road walk, marathon and road cycling, along with the Paralympic marathon – the final event of both Summer Olympic Games 2012.
The logistics and thought going into the provision of the Games within London is, I found, very interesting and I’ll post about that later –
... but as far as Beach Volley Ball on the jousting ground of half a millennia ago is concerned, spectators will watch the action with the London Eye, Big Ben and a Grade 1 listed building facade as their background.
It will be one of the spectacles - as over 4 billion people will watch these Olympics – partly to see the competitions, but probably just as much to see London from a completely different standpoint ...
... Extraordinary does not really describe it ... it will be quite fascinating to see it unfold ....
... but in the meantime I, and I'm sure many Brits, would like this terrible weather we're having to disappear somewhere else - that sky looks foreboding - but yesterday the sky chucked it down, the tornadoes flew, lightning flashed and hailstones stoned .... leaving us with floods, torrents, landslides, fires and general major disruption ...
See my post on Polo here
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