After the very successful Olympic Games in London in 2012, the area where many of the events took place was closed to the public and gradually reopened in 2014 as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Some of the temporary structures used during the Games were dismantled and the remaining buildings have been made accessible to the general public. The Aquatics Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid has lost its “wings” built to accommodate the spectators; the wave-shaped building is the first of the iconic Olympic venues that visitors to the Park will see when accessing the area from Westfield Shopping Center.
Inside there are two Olympic pools, a diving pool and boards, a gym and a crèche. They can be accessed daily either by joining a membership scheme or on a “pay-as-you-go” basis.
Leaving the Aquatics Centre, walking over a bridge crossing the canal, a nice tree-lined promenade leads to the ArcelorMittal Orbit.
Created to celebrate the London Games, it is the tallest sculpture in the UK (114.5 meters); a lift takes visitors to its viewing platform from where there are good views of the Olympic Park and the London skyline in the distance.
455 steps later, back on the ground, the visit to the Park can continue; the Olympic Stadium where many of the events of the London Olympics took place, including the spectacular Opening and Closing ceremonies, is currently closed for refurbishment and it will reopen in 2016 as the new home of West Ham United FC.
On the North side of the Park, past the Copper Box Arena, a sports and entertainment complex with a 7500 capacity, the velodrome comes into view.
It is part of the Lee Valley VeloPark which includes a BMX track, mountain bike trails and the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. Like in the Aquatics Centre, all the facilities here are accessible to the public with the chance to cycle in the steps of Sir Chris Hoy on the velodrome track.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has many facilities to keep everyone entertained including playgrounds for the little ones, a number of kiosks selling food and drinks, cafes and restaurants and plenty of spaces to enjoy a picnic (weather permitting!).
The area all around the Park is been redeveloped with new buildings being constructed to create a new neighbourhood and the former Olympic Village transformed to provide accommodation in a highly sought after location next to Westfield Stratford, one of the biggest shopping centers in Europe.
Further redevelopment will see the creation of the Canal Park: set around the Lee Navigation canal, it will make this part of East London a focal point for residents and visitors alike.