Summer isn't just barbecues and pub gardens - it's when the city bursts into sporting bloom. Michael Anderson picks this season's unmissable events.
Cycling: The return of King Wiggo
The popularity of cycling in the UK shows no sign of waning, with the Tour de Yorkshire a huge hit and Bradley Wiggins finding records he knows he can break in his sleep, then breaking them. In the capital it surges closer to national-treasure status with the third Prudential RideLondon, an open-to-all festival of cycling (though registration has closed for this year). The real star of the show is the 200km London-Surrey Classic, a race featuring some of the top names and teams in cycling. Wiggo will be there, and you can bet he’ll want to prove he’s still on top form as he powers down The Mall and through leafy Middle England.
Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic. Sun Aug 2.
Starts and finishes on The Mall. Free. Get to the good spots early to secure your view.
Cricket: the greatest series on earth
If you really want to smudge the line between spectating and loafing, cricket is your ticket. At Lord’s and The Oval, alcohol, Sunday papers and even an entire picnic may be brought along to championship, one-day and the far shorter (and less elegant) Friday night Twenty20 games. Of course the summer is dominated by The Ashes, as the plucky English aim to prevent the Aussies' first win here in 14 years. But Australia have frighteningly quick bowlers and, in Steve Smith, the world’s number-one ranked batsman. Test matches last up to five (yes, five) days, and though days one to four of both matches in London have sold out, the fifth day (always a Monday) is first-come, first-served. Get your sick note ready.
The Ashes. Jul 16-20 and Aug 20-24.
Match one: Lord’s, St John’s Wood Rd, NW8 8QN. St John’s Wood.
Match two: The Oval, SE11 5SS. Oval. Aug 20-24.
Pray for a fifth day and be prepared to queue!
Tickets for regular county matches available here and here.
Football: the beautiful game’s off-season
This summer has subjected the beautiful game to endless moral indignation, with Fifa revealed as institutionally corrupt as, um, we knew all along. To the rescue have come the unsullied: the Young Lions in the England Under-21 team and England Ladies, fighting on European and World fronts respectively. So celebrate football for being football at the Women’s FA Cup Final, at the new Wembley for the first time, as Chelsea LFC take on Notts County Ladies. Alternatively, ease yourself back in to topflight football: all London clubs have pre-season friendlies lined up, a great chance to check out the best teams in town with tickets cheaper than usual. (Even if - at Arsenal especially - 'cheaper' remains a frustratingly relative term.)
The Women’s FA Cup Final. Sat Aug 1.
Wembley Stadium, HA9 0WS. Wembley Park. £5-£15.
Basketball: Shooting hoops in Stratford
There is a smattering of games in the London Baseball League, and momentum continues to grow behind an NFL franchise taking root in the city, but for a sharp hit of sporting Americana this summer, look no further than Stratford - where else? - and GB Men vs the Tall Blacks. (Hold fire on the indignant email: that’s not our nickname for it. This one-off sees our finest take on the New Zealand team, who can call themselves what they like, because they’re big lads, and 'Tall Blacks' rhymes with 'All Blacks'. See? It’s fine.) There’s an immediacy to basketball that renders any spectatorial ignorance virtually moot: it’s just lofty men throwing a ball through a hoop. So head down there and marvel at the dexterity and stamina these guys show for two-and-a-half hours. The teams’ neighbourly world rankings (twenty-second and twenty-first respectively) suggests a close contest, and you ain't seen nothing till you’ve seen a haka in high-tops.
GB Men vs The Tall Blacks. Sat Jul 25.
The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Park, E20 2ST. Stratford. From £19.80.
Athletics: The Olympic rewind
Still wish it was the halcyon days of summer 2012? Well get over it, it’s 2015, and we have things like emojis and pop-ups now. Besides which, athletics competitions are still rife. Thanks to the Olympics, London has a world-class infrastructure for athletes to thrive in and a fantastic stadium to host things like July’s Diamond League competition. The line-up is stellar, with returning Olympians Jessica Ennis-Hill and Christine Ohuruogu joined by rising star James Dasaolu, keen to back up his 200m gold in the 2014 European Athletics Championship. With even Usain Bolt under threat from the revitalised (if controversial) Justin Gatlin, it promises to be a big summer, with this weekend a key staging post before the World Championships in Beijing in August. Athletics are for life, not just the Olympics.
Diamond League. Jul 24 - Jul 26.
The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Park, E20 2ST. Stratford. From £10.
Boxing: in the heart of the East End
The excitement generated by May’s Pacquiao-Mayweather fight showed that reports of pugilism’s demise have been exaggerated, even as the heavyweight scene wilts under a barrage of anodyne personalities and a confusing number of 'World Champions'. What seems like two men or women just beating seven shades out of one another is actually one of the world’s most ancient and respected sports: a thrilling, visceral, mildly violent act to witness, filled with brilliant displays of skill, strength and clichés.
What’s more, London’s best fights are at the gorgeous Grade II-listed York Hall, so even if it’s over in the first round you’re still hanging out in an art-deco gymnasium. It’s win-win, unless you’re on the canvas, in which case it’s win-lose and maybe a trip to hospital after.
York Hall. Ongoing. From £38.
5 Old Ford Rd, E2 9PJ, Bethnal Green.
Rugby: a classic match
With the autumn’s Rugby World Cup looming like a big beefy prop queuing for a pint, there’s enough rugby beforehand to whet the appetite and ensure you know what you’re talking about come September. You can try to get tickets for the World Cup - remember how annoyed you were when you didn’t make it along in 2012? - but we’d recommend not bothering. Instead, you can swing low, sweet chariot, by seeing gargantuan lads in the flesh when England host France and Ireland at Twickenham in warm-up Tests. For all the rugger with none of the 'bugger', though, Barbarians v Samoa promises to be an exciting Bank Holiday Saturday of huge men smashing into each other at great speed. It truly is the sport of gentlemen.
By Michael Anderson.
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Images: Maureen Barlin, Anthony Charlton, Andrew Hall.