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Fourth-Place Medal

Ranking the worst venues of the London 2012 Summer Olympics

Fourth-Place Medal

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LONDON — In ranking the worst venues at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, let's first put the concept of "worst" in context.

The word "flawed" might be more applicable, considering the venues have been uniformly solid (for the most part). This why the following list seems truncated: Finding flaws in the venues at these games is like complaining that Usain Bolt couldn't run a fraction faster.

A significant majority of the London Games' venues were expertly chosen, aesthetically pleasing and memorable. We'll cover the 10 best Olympic venues in an upcoming post.

[ Related: Making the grade: How did the London Olympics stack up? ]

For now, a look at four venues that — for one reason or another — weren't as successful as some of the others at the 2012 Games.

Some of these venues we visited during the Games; other choices are the product of conversations with media and fans.

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4. Wembley Arena

Of the traditional arenas for the London Games, Wembley didn't have the capacity of North Greenwich or the unique vibe of Earl's Court. It hosted rhythmic gymnastics and badminton, and in both cases it was just a place to watch an event.

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3. BMX Track

Maybe it was because the event was held on two of the hottest days of the Olympics. Maybe it was the overenthusiastic announcing and between-races entertainment. Or, perhaps, a track surface that seemed to lead to an unusually high number of crashes. Whatever the case, the BMX Track venue in the Olympic Park felt like an afterthought for a sport still finding its place at the Games.

[ Photos: BMX action at the Olympics ]

It also needed a redesign in cases on injury. When Brazil's Squel Stein crashed within seconds of the starting gate, she was placed on a stretcher; rather than find the nearest gate, volunteers walked her through the BMX course to get to a medical facility. Yikes.

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2. Basketball Arena

One of the Summer Olympics' most popular sports was placed inside a temporary facility that looked like a meringue pie on the outside. In an Olympics that featured significant sports in classic venues — tennis at Wimbledon, triathlon at Hyde Park — basketball was played in an arena that will be folded up and shipped to Rio.

It does light up really pretty, however.

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1. Aquatics Centre

Designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, it wasn't exactly well-received by Architectural Review in comparison to the Velodrome:

Style and styling are not the same and what bothers many architects and critics about a design like the Aquatics Centre is the wilful arbitrariness of its forms − at least of those of the steel and glass superstructure. Elegant and excitingly expressive they may be, but there is nothing to be grasped intellectually or subliminally, no revealed structural or other design logic to read and relate to, no empathic sense of forces in action, whether of a heaving arched action or of loads being brought down to ground.

The Aquatics Centre didn't have an Olympic-sized capacity, so temporary seating was added that didn't fit within the design scheme. Hadid's design also caused hundreds of seats to have obstructed views, as divers would disappear out of sight when they jumped off the high board.

Anytime the Olympic Committee has to offer refunds because of flaws in its facility design, that facility certainly earns the indignity of the worst of the 2012 London Games facilities — even if it'll be remembered as the site of Michael Phelps' final swims.

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