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The world in one city

Wembley Stadium
After delays and budget problems, the new Wembley is a stadium to be proud of

Pete Stevens
By Pete Stevens
BBC London Sports Editor

The opening decade of the 21st century definitely proved that London is the finest sporting city in the world and, as we move on through to 2010-plus, it is perfectly poised to enhance its reputation and see off any pretenders to its crown.

For followers of sport the landscape really began to change with the decision to build a new national stadium.

The old Wembley had served London magnificently for 70 years but the old girl was in desperate need of a makeover.

Demolition in 2003 was followed by years of construction delay, contract bickering and massive budgetary overspends but when the new venue was finally opened, London had a stadium to be proud off and the rest of the world could only marvel at.

Added to our own sportsmen and sportswomen, the rest of the world's greats have not hesitated to come and test their skills on the London stage
Pete Stevens

The home of rugby also initiated major redevelopments. By the time we reached the end of the decade, Twickenham had become the biggest rugby stadium in the world with everyone seated and undercover.

Not to be outdone, the All England Club down at SW19 threw tradition out the window and built a retractable roof over Wimbledon's Centre Court.

It was unveiled in April 2009, thus ensuring at least some form of continuous play during the world's most famous tennis tournament.

Cricket was also prepared to move with the times. The Oval, with all its structural changes, is almost unrecognizable from the ground where Surrey and England played at the end of the last century and even Lords was not to be left out. It, like its south London neighbours, installed floodlights so that cricket could be played at night.

The Invincibles

However, the crowning glory must be the Emirates stadium. Built to replace one of football's shrines - Highbury - which could no longer house the ambitions of Arsenal Football Club.

What Gunners fans got in its place was the perfect theatre to watch club footbal on a both, domestic and continental stage.

Arsenal FC 2004
Arsenal's victory parade 2004

So the decade brought massive changes in the way spectators were able to experience a sporting occasion, but was the fare that they were served up of equal quality?

The answer is a resounding yes.

In the 10 years under review, it is clear that it was the teams from London that were the driving force behind the capital's sporting success.

Arsenal's team of "Invincibles" brought forth superlatives not only for the squad of players but also for the man who had assembled only the second group of players in history to go undefeated in the league - Arsene Wenger.

A young Russian billionaire bought Chelsea FC and football would never be the same again. Suddenly, London had a second club that could mount a challenge to the two-thirds stranglehold that the North West's teams had on the sport.

The introduction of a young Portuguese manager and the way he turned the former Kings Road socialites into Mourinho's machine, was remarkable. They set new records as silverware tumbled into the trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge. But, as quickly as he arrived, he was gone.

Fan power

The Blues, like their North London rivals, were once again playing second fiddle to Manchester's Red Devils who were now owned by Americans.

Icelandic bankers, Formula 1 moguls and an American-Russian ownership battle at the Emirates, all made for compulsive headlines amongst the capital's football boardrooms.

Jose Mourinho
Mourinho was indeed the Special One

Added to that, Italians, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Israelis and a even a World Cup winner from Brazil were employed in the managerial dug-outs as clubs within the M25 looked for that elusive formula for success. Some nearly got there, others failed miserably but one thing you have to say, it was never dull watching their attempts.

However, one success was purely down to the fans. Wimbledon FC was stolen from its natural habitat and transported to a strange land ruled by concrete cows.

Instead of lying down, the Dons' faithful formed a new version of their club, AFC.

This wasn't going to be just a Sunday morning venture. This was a real attempt by fans to let the footballing authorities know just how powerful the terrace brigade could be.

To start a new club from scratch and ultimately get into the Football League was the aim. Four promotions in seven seasons have left them one step away from their dream. How special would it be if they arrived in 2010 with their ambitions fulfilled?

Retaining the crown?

Cricket went crazy during the last 10 years, experimenting with many different ways of playing the game, until they hit upon a formula called Twenty20.

Straight away, the game caught the public's imagination. A cricket match that could be settled in three hours, big hits, outlandish outfits, and cheerleaders. Rumours of Dr W. G. Grace spinning in his grave abounded.

However, regular crowds of over 20,000 at Lords and the Oval proved that the changes had been accepted by the players and fans alike, and Surrey and Middlesex both proved they could play the game, by winning memorable finals.

As professionalism took a grip of Rugby Union, London Wasps were only matched by Leicester in the success stakes. Two Heineken Cup victories and four championship titles helped switch the balance of power in the sport from its traditional bases of the West Country and the Midlands to the capital.

Michael Vaughan in September 2005
London celebrated the 2005 Ashes win

Hopefully, the now infamous "Bloodgate scandal" has sent out a warning to all involved in the sport, that the basic ethics that the game was built on, must be retained at all costs and the new found money that has arrived in the game must not become the driving force.

Open top bus parades around the streets of London to celebrate great national success, like the Rugby World Cup winners, the Olympic and Paralympics athletes from Beijing and Michael Vaughan's successful Ashes winning squad, all lead to a sense of connection that the people had not experienced before with their heroes.

Your Decade
What are your key memories from the last 10 years in the capital?
Email us and even send photos to yourlondon@bbc.co.uk and we'll publish as many as we can.

Added to our own sportsmen and sportswomen, the rest of the world's greats have not hesitated to come and test their skills on the London stage.

The likes of Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, The Tour De France, the NFL, Shane Warne, and Michael Schumacher have all displayed their talents in the capital at some point.

Can we beat the first decade of the 21st century? It will be extremely difficult and we might need something like the Olympic Games to get even close. After all, London is the greatest sports city on earth.

London: The world in one city
26 Nov 09 |  People & Places
A Decade in the Arts
15 Dec 09 |  Arts & Culture
In Pictures: A changing landscape
26 Nov 09 |  People & Places
In Pictures: London's Decade
26 Nov 09 |  People & Places
Ashes 2005: Series of the century
01 Sep 05 |  Story of the Series
BBC London's Sports Awards 2009
16 Dec 09 |  TV & Radio
Reaction to Mourinho's exit
20 Sep 07 |  Chelsea
Arsenal the Invincibles
15 May 04 |  Arsenal
Wembley opener attracts thousands
24 Mar 07 |  London
Stars play under Wimbledon roof
17 May 09 |  Tennis
Maddy's guide to Twenty20
10 Sep 07 |  Skills
The Non League Show
15 Aug 11 |  TV & Radio



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