The 2012 Summer Olympics are just days away. Unlike the most recent games, these ones will not be played out on Canadian soil. However, they will be held in London, England: the city that gave our town its name. In addition, five Londoners will be making the trip across the pond this summer to represent Canada. As people across the city prepare to watch the events in England, here is a brief look at our London’s connection with the hosting city and our contribution to this summer’s Olympic Games.
5 facts about the London-London connection:
1) London, Ontario was named by a colonel in the British army and the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe. When he arrived in the region at the end of the eighteenth century, he declared his intentions to transform the vast wilderness he saw before him into the capital of Upper Canada.
2) Despite his grandiose plans, limited resources prevented our city from becoming the desired capital and it remained unsettled for thirty-three years. The capital was shifted to York, which is present-day Toronto.
3) London was almost called Georgina to acknowledge that the land belonged to the British King, George III. Simcoe quickly changed it to “New London,” which was simply shortened to “London” in September of 1793.
4) The Thames River was initially called “La Tranche.” Simcoe renamed it after the river that runs through London, England because he felt the French word for “ditch” would not sufficiently reflect its importance to the area. The Aboriginal people using the river as a key resource at the time called it “Askunesippi,” which translates into “Antlered River.”
5) The decision to appropriate names from London, England did not come about until 1840 - approximately fifty years after Simcoe’s arrival. The villagers of London at the time made this decision to show their allegiance to the Crown.
The origin of names:
Covent Garden Market was named after the bazaar in London, England. The term “Covent” referred to its history as a twelfth-century kitchen garden that supplies produce to the monks of Westminster Abbey. Our version of the market was initially located on the grounds of the Court House. In the mid-nineteenth century the board of police tried to relocate it away from the city centre. A group of businessmen responded to this plan by donating the land behind their buildings on King and Dundas in an effort to ensure the survival of such a marketable place. The current form of Covent Market was built in 2000.
Oxford Street is named after London’s leading shopping destination.
Piccadilly Street is one of London’s central streets that houses the Royal Academy and the Ritz Hotel. It also leads into the famed Piccadilly circus.
Pall Mall is a thoroughfare that leads into Trafalgar Square. Although it remains a busy area, it was once the fine art centre of the city.
London Olympic Athletes:
This summer’s games will see five Londoners compete: Miranda Ayim in basketball, Joe Bartoch in swimming, Ashley Brzozowicz and Lesley Thompson-Willie in rowing, and Damian Warner in the decathlon. We wish all of them good luck and can’t wait to see if Canada can continue its golden streak.