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Fourth-Place Medal

Ranking the best Olympic venues (and the worst)

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

Fourth-Place Medal ranks the six coolest venues for the upcoming Summer Olympics.

Horse Guard Parade (above; beach volleyball)

Beaches are hard to come by in London, so organizers placed the outdoor volleyball venue in the next most logical place: On the 267-year-old grounds of the parade area named for soldiers who protect the British monarchy. What it lacks in sports tradition it makes up for in history; the Horse Guard Parade host the Queen's annual birthday celebration and is a traditional site for the pomp and circumstance of royalty.

Wimbledon (tennis)

Photos: U.S. tennis team

Three weeks after hosting its annual grass-court Grand Slam, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club will be back in the tennis spotlight as it welcomes the four tennis events at the London Olympics. The grass courts, worn down from a fortnight of play, have been replaced, meaning little will look different when Olympic competition begins on Saturday, except for the change in dress code. Wimbledon's "predominantly white" rule is out. Color is in.

[ Photos: All of London's Olympic venues ]

Aquatics Centre (water events)

Photos: Inspirational Olympic moments

Home to swimming, diving and synchronized swimming, the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park provides one of the most striking architectural visuals of the Games. It features a roof that's nearly 500 feet long which rests on two concrete supports at opposite ends of the building. Organizers say over two-thirds of entrants to Olympic Park will enter via a pedestrian bridge built into the roof.

Greenwich Park (equestrian)

Photos: Equestrian beauties

St. Paul's Cathedral, the River Thames and the Prime Meridian are just a few of the sites visible from Greenwich Park, the site of Olympic equestrian events. It's hard to remember now, but New York City bid for these Olympics seven years ago and was eliminated in the second round of voting. I mention this because, as beautiful as Greenwich Park is, equestrian events at Aqueduct may have been more scenic. Rockaway Blvd. is lovely this time of year.

[ Then and now: See what Beijing's 2008 Olympic venues look like today ]

The Royal Artillery Barracks (shooting)

Photos: Missile sites to protect London

Construction on the Royal Artillery Barracks began the same year that the United States declared independence from England. This building (one of two that will house the shooting events) was not among the original plans. Organizers built two temporary venues for the Olympics, each made of 18,000 square feet of PVC membrane. "The vibrantly colored openings on the white façade help create tension in the membrane and provide natural ventilation and light," boasts the official Olympic website.

Riverbank Arena (field hockey)

Photos: Olympic torch arrives in London

This is the first blue hockey field in Olympic history. Organizers believe it will help viewers and spectators see the ball better. Another benefit to the color: It'll also make it harder to tell that it's been raining for six days.

And the worst ...

Olympic Stadium (athletics, Opening and Closing Ceremonies)

Photos: Beijing's ignored Olympic venues

Early reviews rave about the design of Olympic Park -- the floating island that houses three venues and is reachable by five bridges. The centerpiece of the Park; not so much. The best thing you can say about Olympic Stadium, is that it's not the garish Orbit tower which stands nearby.

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