London Olympics – 2012
How does the site where the 2012 London Olympics took place looks like now? And is it worth a visit?
”1-5-8 to… Stratford.” I will never forget that nasal voice sounding over the speaker system. Bus 158 is the bus that runs from Chingford Mount to Stratford. I always used to take the 158 to commute from my home to Blackhorse Road tube station. From there I would take the Victoria Line down to Euston station.
On some of the grey Saturday- or Sunday afternoons, my friend and I stayed on the 158 until it terminated at the Stratford bus station. Stratford is home to the second Westfield Shopping Centre in London and is an absolute indoor shopping heaven. We spent many drizzling weekends browsing the H&M, Forever 21, and Primark for new outfits. We tried foreign cuisine at the food court, or watched a movie at the Vue cinema.
This was all in the beginning of 2012. Looking out from the 158 we always observed the construction works of the brand new Olympic Park. Big, grey buildings rose up from the ground, popping up like mushrooms. We couldn’t really believe that in a few months’ time thousands of athletes would find a temporary home there. I fled the London Olympics craze a few weeks before ‘all hell broke loose’. Hence, I never saw ‘Athletes’ Village’ actually in use.
Holy Olympic Grounds
Last summer, I finally found time to set foot on ‘holy Olympic ground.’ I decided to make a visit to the Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. Really bizarre to have observed the construction works from so close, but never actually visited the place where the London Olympics took place in 2012.
From Stratford train/tube station it’s really easy to enter Elizabeth Olympic Park via Westfield Shopping Center. So that is what I did.
‘Athletes’ Village’ transformed in 2013 to ‘East Village’ and now hosts over 2000 new homes, complete with a school, bars, restaurants, shops and 27 acres of parkland. A concern many often people have is that Olympic parks loose their value after the sports events. Consequently becoming a ghost town. Well, Elizabeth Olympic Park is anything but a ghost town. When me and a friend visited the place in August 2014, it was bustling with people.
The entire time we spent in the park, I constantly kept saying out loud: ”I cannot believe I’m finally here! I cannot believe that I’m actually INSIDE the Elizabeth Olympic Park!” It felt truly magical to finally being able to visit the place that I looked at so many times from behind all these fences. I felt like a child at Disney World.
The venues that hosted the sports events back in 2012 were an impressive sight to take in. We literally pressed our noses onto the glass of the London Aquatics Centre. This is the place where Dutch champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo won her gold medals.
What I really liked about the park was that it is huge, and that even the outdoor playgrounds are made with natural products. As a result, you don’t realize that you’re so close to the large buildings of the City and Canary Wharf.
We decided to check out what else there was to do, and we quickly found that they offered boat tours on the Lea River. Since the weather changed for the worse, we told ourselves that we would come back another time to try it out. (check out my other post about a cycle route along Lea River and the Olympic Park)
We quickly made our way inside the local cafe to hide from the oncoming rain. Here, we found more information about Arcelormittal Orbit. The Orbit is UK’s tallest sculpture (114.5m), and is basically a large, looping-style sculpture, visible from miles away. Standing on top of the tower costs about 12 pounds. As we really liked the view from where we were standing – with two feet on the ground – we decided not to make the climb up. Instead, we headed back to Westfield for a delicious dinner.
All in all, I was extremely impressed by how the Olympic Park turned out after the London Olympics. It’s definitely an improvement for the Borough of Stratford.
How to get there: by tube (Jubilee and Central Line), DLR, London Overground Services, and train (National Rail Services operated by Greater Anglia and c2c, Southeastern High Speed 1 services) to Stratford (International) station. By bus (25, 69, 86, 97, 104, 108, 158, 238, 241, 257, 262, 276, 308, 339, 425, 473, D8) to Stratford bus station. From there, take the escalator or lift up to ‘The Street’ (Westfield Shopping Center), follow it along, bear left, and the park is directly ahead of you across the street.
Update (October 2016): the Arcelormittal Orbit is now home to world’s highest slide!