2. London

The atmosphere in London as the Olympics open is electrifying. All over the city, athletes are practising, cameramen fighting for the best filming spots, and spectators wandering around in a daze.

But London is so much more than the Games as such. Even people who have not been able to snaffle a ticket to a single event are enjoying the vibe.

This is thanks to the London 2012 Festival, which offers 10 million free cultural events in and around London. The ancient Greeks and Dr William Penny Brookes, forefather of the modern International Olympic Games, had already decided that a gigantic sporting event is incomplete without its cultural aspect.

Mind and body must be in symmetry, and that is the reason why, for decades, the Olympics included literature and arts competitions.

No one is sure why the cultural element was ripped out of the Olympic Games after 1948. Perhaps it had something to do with the aftermath of World War II – but until someone makes a discovery in a set of forgotten files, we won’t know.

But this year Britain has revived the old tradition. For the first time in decades, the London Games are joined by thousands of talented and leading artists from all the nations taking part in the Olympics for 12 weeks, right up to September 9. - Weekend Argus

l To browse through the London 2012 Festival programme, log in to www.london2012.com/festival