The Olympic Park


For a brief interlude from Copenhagen (which we have finally finished blogging about, I promise!) and Stockholm (still to come), I thought I would post a few pictures from the rapidly developing Olympic Park in East London.  I was fortunate enough to be selected to take a tour of the site through a work connection, so last Monday afternoon a colleague and I headed over to the east side of London (my office is on the west side) to the Olympic Park in the Stratford area.

The Olympic Park is located adjacent to the Great Eastern Main Line in a former railway-related, heavy industrial area, adjacent to and partially in Stratford (just inside London's Zone 3 due east of Central London). The Olympic Stadium is in the background.

The tour was about 45 minutes or so by bus - and no one was allowed to get off the bus inside the park. It is a little hard to read here, but the bus's destination sign read "Olympic Park."

The Olympic Park will be the centre of attention from 27 July to 12 August 2012 for the Summer Olympics and again from 29 August to 9 September 2012 for the Summer Paralympics.  Although the main site is this park in a “regeneration” area in East London, events will be held across London and even elsewhere in the UK, including well-known sporting venues like Wembley and Wimbledon.  After the Olympics, from 2013 onwards, the park will be known as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and will become not only the centre of a massively redeveloped area but also one of the largest urban parks created in Europe for more than a century.  Here’s a quick look at the site based on the tour I had.

The Olympic Stadium is the central venue that will accommodate 80,000 for the events. The stadium itself was finished earlier this year, although you can see a lot of finalizing still needs to be done.

The black cube is where all the cool people (or at least the rich ones, like the Queen!) will be during the games. The water in the foreground is part of the Lower Lea Valley of the River Lea, which empties into the Thames, and flows around the site. The stadium is now slated to be slimmed down to just about 25,000 permanent seats and become home to the nearby West Ham United football club.

This is the viewing tower and monument to the Olympics is still under construction; at a planned height approaching 400 feet it will become a major landmark.

The London Aquatics Centre, designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, this is one of the more distinctive and innovative structures. The centre part will be permanent, becoming London's leading facility for aquatic sports, while the "wings" are temporary to accommodate a total of 17,500 spectators during the games. Hadid is incidentally one of the world's most famous current architects, leading a London-based firm that has ~350 people; according to Wikipedia, she is frequently listed as one of the world's most influential women and most important thinkers, and is apparently very happy that this is oddly her first London area work.

This is the Velodrome, for indoor cycling - this was actually the first major venue to be completed earlier this year and will be a permanent part of the London Velopark on this site.

Also part of the Velopark and next to the Velodrome is the outdoor BMX track, which will accommodate 6,000 spectators. It will also remain after the games but will be reconfigured and rerouted to the north.

This was actually the building I liked the best - the basketball arena. It is actually a temporary venue - the largest ever built for any Olympic Games - that will hold 10-12,000 people. It is, however, completely modular and expected to be taken apart and reassembled elsewhere afterwards - maybe somewhere else in the UK, or even in Dubai (who has put in a bid, apparently). Another cool feature is the fact that there are no gates or doors; the entire bottom area is open and allows people to freely come in and out (which might not work upon reassembly given the need for stricter ticketing control!).

Adjacent to the site, of course, is the Olympic (or Athletes') Village, which will have 17,320 beds and a dining hall to accommodate 5,500 athletes at a time. Each separate block has apparently been designed by different architects,and the whole complex is slated to become a combination of different levels (low-income/market-rate) of housing afterwards. It should be in a prime location, with the adjacent Stratford City development and excellent transport links.A distant view of Stratford City, the huge mixed-use development by the mall giant Westfield. The complex's massive mall just opened yesterday, and the site will also include lots of homes (including at the adjacent Olympic Village, ultimately), commercial space, hotels, etc. It is directly adjacent to both Stratford stations (Regional and International), providing excellent transport connections.

I have to include a picture of the DLR - one of my favourite transport modes! This is the new Docklands Light Railway (DLR) extension connecting Stratford Regional to Stratford International, which just opened at the end of August. Stratford Regional is home to the Great Eastern Main Line, the London Underground Jubilee and Central Lines, the North London Line of London Overground, and the old Stratford line of the DLR. Stratford International is a station on High Speed 1, the fast line shared by the Eurostar (which for now just passes through, but could stop there during the Olympics and in the future) and the Southeastern High-Speed services from London St. Pancras to destinations across SE England and Kent, including Dover and Canterbury.

After the tour we paid the hefty fare (about £4 each) to take the 7-min journey from Stratford International to St. Pancras International in Central London on one of the domestic high-speed trains. St. P has gotten into the Olympic spirit too - it will be home to the Olympic Javelin high-speed shuttle service to and from the Olympic Park during the games.

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Posted on 15/09/2011, in Within London and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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