As the country celebrates the Anniversary Games in the Olympic Stadium, Stratford’s landscape continues to change, giving the London 2012 Olympic Games a lasting legacy.
The roar of the crowd was deafening as over 60,000 spectators cheered on some of the best athletes in the world. A year on from the London 2012 Olympic Games the atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London, was just as frenzied. Mo Farah easily won his 3,000-metre race to the delight of the crowd, and while Jessica Ennis-Hill was hampered by injury, support for the golden girl of British athletics was overwhelming as she competed in the 110-metre hurdles and the long jump events. Usain Bolt thrilled in the 100-metre sprint and the Jamaican team were victorious the 4 x 100-metre relay. Flags were waved, music played and seats were filled.
Such enthusiasm is an indication of how this pocket of London in the Borough of Newham continues to keep the glory and excitement of last summer alive.
Although some parts of the landscape are still building sites there are enough extraordinary features, both old and brand new, to ensure that when the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is opened officially next year the Olympics will have blossomed into a lasting legacy.
From the top of Anish Kapoor’s Arcelor Mittal Orbit – the 115-metre-high sculpture and observation tower that overlooks the Olympic Stadium – you get a spectacular vantage point of all that this area of east London has become and a taste of what more it has to offer.
The shining giants of Canary Wharf are easily recognisable in the distance as are St Paul’s, the Shard and the Gherkin. But what surrounds the Orbit, which took 2,000 tonnes of steel to build and is not officially open until spring 2014, promises to become equally iconic.
The north of the park offers open green spaces that lend themselves to celebration. The Open East Festival was run this summer with brilliant food stands, an art car boot sale where original pieces by British artists were on offer, bars selling prosecco on tap, cabaret shows and running races for children. This parkland is not only vast but it has water, grassy hillocks for lounging with picnics and really gorgeous Robinson Crusoe-style play areas for children. Nearby, the Copper Box, which hosted handball, fencing and Paralympic goalball is now the third biggest arena in the capital and is set to host all sorts of events from team games to concerts, while on a day-to-day basis the gym and sports hall will be available to work out in – and who wouldn’t want to get in shape in an Olympic venue?
Of course, a major feature of the regeneration project is Westfield Stratford City. More impressive than its West London counterpart, this is not only the largest urban shopping mall in Europe with over 300 shops and restaurants (and even a late-night casino) but its exciting views make it superior, especially if you choose to stay here.
The Staybridge Suites are an upmarket alternative to the neighbouring Holiday Inn. Contemporary elegance is combined with charming concierge staff and with floor to ceiling windows on the twelfth floor – it’s another opportunity to take in the vistas. Designed to be ‘home from home’– each suite has a kitchen and a 24-hour pantry is offered at reception – and evening drinks gatherings take place between Tuesdays and Thursdays so that guests can meet one another.
There’s an idea that this part of Newham, having undergone so much regeneration, is all brand new but actually some fascinating pieces of history remain making the area a fabulous blend of the old and the new. Three Mills Island is the oldest surviving industrial centre in London and has been home to mills since Saxon times. It is also where the grain that would ultimately create London’s most famous tipple, gin, was milled. Similarly, on nearby Fish Island is Forman’s Restaurant, which offers a spectacular view of the Olympic Stadium. Forman’s has been established since 1905 and specialises in smoked salmon; the gin and tonic recipe is especially apt for those wanting a true taste of the East End.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be completed next year. It might have its seeds in sport, but it has now blossomed into so much more.
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