Places to visit – Olympic Park

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The Olympic Park is for now almost deserted!

I travelled by train down to London and joined a tour organised by www.toursof2012sites.com (this is what they call themselves).

I was informed in advance that we would not be entering the park itself as this is closed to the public until April 2013. This was therefore a walk along part of the peripheral fence having first walked through Three Mills Green a new park built on reclaimed derelict land. In fact the whole Olympic area was reclaimed.

I had picked the day a few days in advance as the forecasters promised it to be the best day in the coming week and I wanted to take some photos. On the morning the forecasters promised me that the south-east would be blessed by warm sunny weather spreading up from France. I think nobody told the French as they certainly didn’t send it to London. Instead the whole area was shrouded by mist and a gentle drizzle persisted. So, the top of the Stadium and the nearby ArcelorMittal Orbit* were hardly visible and the colours were heavily de-saturated.

Did you know…

  • The iconic red *ArcelorMittal Orbit is Europes tallest artwork at 114 metres high. It has a lift up to its viewing platform.
  • The ArcelorMittal Orbit was named after the company of that name whose CEO ArcelorMittal committed funding of up to £19.6m of the £22.7m project, with £3.1m provided by the London Development Agency.
  • There were more journalists and broadcasters covering the event than competing athletes.
  • Each of the many thousands entering the park every hour was admitted through scrupulous security in 5 minutes – this in spite of G4S staffing problems.
  • The BBC studio coverage was shown from the top of an apartment tower block 1 mile away and had a separate external lift built to avoid disturbing the residents.
  • The Athletes Village did not have individual kitchens and housed up to 4 people per apartment. The athletes were all fed in a central 5,000 cover restaurant – the biggest known -thank goodness Ecoli didn’t strike!”
  • The Olympic Javelin train continues to transport people 9km from the continent High Speed 1 terminus at Saint Pancrass station to Stratford International station near the Olympic Park, in a hop-on/hop-off time of less than 7 minutes!

The big surprise  and initial disappointment

It soon became very apparent that the park was being highly modified for future use.

The site is not the vibrant superdrome seen on TV and there are signs of on-going demolition as well as the total removal of the temporary markees used to service the vast daily ingress of people.

The site has contractors visible dismantling not only the vast security and hospitality buildings but also modifying the iconic sport venues. Of the latter some will disappear, for example the Water Polo arena (which, interestingly, is under negotiation to be shipped to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games).

What is the park’s future?

In a word “staggering”!

The London Legacy Development Corporation has responsibility for planning and delivering the future of the Olympic Park which will be renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This is good because they can control the future congruity of the site, carrying forward the success and inspiration of the event and vetoing any destructive commercialisation. They have already vetoed a bid from Tottenham Hotspur FC which amongst other things wanted to remove the iconic superstructure of the Stadium. The development of the Stadium has recently been awarded to West Ham FC.

This will not become a dead area as so many other Olympic sites have become. Lord Sebastion Coe, as part of his selling of the London venue, leaned heavily on the concept of the restoration benefits of using a derelict area of east end London. London Mayor Boris Johnson and the local 6 London district councils seem not prepared to lose the momentum created.

The whole Olympic Park and a deal of surrounding land will be revamped and restored to produce a new London living environment including affordable housing and work opportunities so much needed for young people starting working life in London.

Please open a separate page of the official Olympic Park map to make the following more meaningful.

Many of the 2012 venues will be retained but downsized in seating capacity to make economic sense post Olympics.

The retained and modified venues will be:

  • The Stadium will be retained and have the same external appearance but upper seating reduced so that the current stadium’s 80,000 capacity will fall to 55,000.
  • The Aquatics Centre will have its two side wings removed (currently seating areas) and glass walls erected instead.
  • The Copperbox will be retained and renamed the Multi Use Arena.
  • The Velodrome is to be retained as a cycling venue but renamed the Velopark.
  • Eton Manor will become the Lea Valley Hockey Centre and Lea Valley Tennis Centre.
  • The Press and Broadcast Centres will become a new Commercial Business District.
  • The Athletes Village will become the East Village of apartments.
  • The ArcelorMittal Orbit will remain with its lift up to a viewing platform – Hooray!

In addition a new housing development, Cobham Manor, will be built and extensive parkland created plus use of existing the existing waterways tributaries of the River Lea.

The site is bordered in the south by the recently completed Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, the biggest in Europe.

So, hurry down there if you want to see Olympic Park almost as it was during the games. I can thoroughly recommend the 2 hour tour for a wealth of impressive statistics and inside stories.

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Below is a gallery of photos through the mist taken on the tour:


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