As the world united for Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, the previous venue still celebrates much of its sporting legacy which are open to the public to enjoy.
It’s four years since the Queen "parachuted" into London’s Olympic Stadium, as part of Danny Boyle’s unforgettable opening ceremony. Its celebration of everything that makes Britain great, from Shakespeare and David Bowie to the NHS and multiculturalism, set the tone for the rest of 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
London’s Games were flawless and fabulous—even the weather was good! But what lasting impact did it have?
Since the 2012 Games, Stratford (not to be confused with Stratford-upon-Avon) has become one of the most exciting boroughs in the capital, thanks to regeneration and the purpose-built, multi-billion-pound Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
"East London is a melting pot of different interests and perspectives with a vibrant culture like nowhere else in London," says Peter Tudor, the Park’s director of visitor services. "Just across the Park in Hackney Wick is the greatest concentration of artists anywhere in Europe and we have Theatre Royal Stratford East."
Nearby you’ll also find the largest shopping mall in Europe, Westfield Stratford City, with more than 200 stores, 70 dining spots plus a new 65,000 foot casino, Aspers.
Inside the former Olympic Park, you can soak up the sunshine across 560 acres of lush parklands and waterways that attract diverse wildlife. There’s even beehives which have already produced 60 jars of honey.
Summers see the popular Beach East, with its vast stretch of white sand, paddling pool, fun fair rides and a carnival atmosphere to rival Rio.
Over in the Park’s East Village, 3,000 people now live in former athletes' accommodation, surrounded by a growing number of trendy bars and cafes. Make the most of the Park in full bloom and take a boat trip along the canal or hire a bike from the Santander Cycles docking stations to explore some hidden gems – we recommend The Great British Garden near the Stadium, themed on the colours of Olympic medals: bronze, silver and gold.
Or why not relive the magic of London 2012 and visit the venues where records were broken? Whether you’re a spectator or a budding Olympian, there’s something for everyone.
The Olympic Stadium
The Park’s most recognisable venue is the only arena in the UK to host both world-class football and athletics events. At other times, it’s used for entertainment, including huge concerts. From August 2016 the stadium is the new home of West Ham United FC—the biggest and most successful British stadium move in the modern era.
Whizz up UK’s tallest sculpture, known as the Orbit, in a lift and enjoy views across London’s famous skyline. On a clear day, you can see for 20 miles in a panorama that takes in iconic buildings, including The Shard, Big Ben and the Gherkin. What goes up must come down, and if you’re a thrill-seeker then you’re in for a treat. Why not abseil down the sculpture or zoom down the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide? At almost 180m long and 76m high, this is no ordinary helter-skelter ride—you could reach speeds of 15 miles per hour!
London Aquatics Centre
Designed by the late Zaha Hadid, this spectacular centre, with its distinctive wave-like roof and state-of-the-art facilities, is open to people of all ages and abilities. It can seat 2,500 spectators – but don’t let that put you off taking a dip. There are a wide range of fun and family-friendly activities, as well as lane swimming, diving lessons and professional training sessions.
Copper Box Arena
Basketball, handball, fencing, badminton, gymnastics; this arena attracts a wide-range of local sports clubs these days, while also hosting everything from heavyweight boxing matches to pop concerts. It’s the home of London Lions, the capital’s only professional basketball team, who play their league matches here, yearly, from August to April.
Lee Valley Velopark
Track cycling, road racing, BMX and mountain biking—this iconic venue has it all. Burn some rubber inside the award-winning, 6,000-seat velodrome or head outside and feel the wind in your hair as you tackle dozens of bumps, jumps and berms on the remodelled Olympic BMX track. The one-mile road circuit is floodlit and there’s 8km of traffic-free mountain bike trails if you prefer to get off the beaten track.
Find events at the Olympic Park here.