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THE QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK
The Park, home to London's hugely successful Olympic and Paralympic Games during the Sumer of 2012, has now fully reopened after work to transform the area into a permanent amenity for London, and to regenerate what was once a neglected and overlooked former industrial part of the City.
The Southern area of the Park contains not only the iconic Stadium, where so many world records were made and smashed, but also the superb Aquatic Centre which has been reopened as an outstanding public swimming pool, and the ArcelorMittal Orbit which offers superb panoramic views over the Park and the fast-changing landscape of the East End of London over to the heart of the City. It also contains areas of parkland and gardens, and the rivers and channels that once flowed unnoticed through an industrial landscape have now been opened up and integrated fully into the Park.
The Northern area contains the Velodrome, home of some of the Olympics' most dramatic cycling moments, as well as an outdoor track and facilities for BMX riding and mountain biking. It also contains the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, and has areas of parkland as well as natural areas including a waterglade.
Both areas of the Park have refreshment facilities, including The Podium in the South Park next to the Orbit, and the Timber Lodge in the North Park. There are also extensive free play areas where children can let off steam.
The former Athletes' Village has been reconfigured as public housing and is now one of London's newest residential neighbourhoods, East Village.
The Park is complemented by the Westfield Shopping Centre, one of Europe's largest, which offers unrivalled shopping and entertainment facilities. The John Lewis store has a free viewing gallery on its third floor with panoramic views across the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park website: queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk
The ArcellorMIttal Orbit is open as a visitor atttraction, with observation platforms at 76 metres and 80 metres above ground giving a birds-eye view over the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the rapidly changing landscape of East London towards the towers of the City of London and the Docklands. Tickets may be bought in advance, or at The Podium on the day. There is a small discount for anyone who can provide proof of residence in one of the five East London 2012 'host boroughs' (Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Greenwich)
GETTING TO THE QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK
For all travel enquiries in London, including walking and cycling routes, use the TfL (Transport for London) website which includes a Journey Planner. Transport for London website
The main station serving the Park is Stratford; there are walking routes to the North Park and South Park through the Westfield Centre*.
Stratford International, Pudding Mill Lane and Hackney Wick stations are also close to the Park.
Stratford is served by London Underground Central and Jubilee Lines, London Overground services and the Docklands Light Railway. National Rail services operated by Abellio Greater Anglia serve Stratford directly from Norwich, Ipswich and most parts of Essex, as well as from London Liverpool Street main line station. Stratford station is on the boundary of Travelcard zones 2/3, so travelcards valid in eitjer zone can be used there.
Docklands Light Railway services from Beckton and Woolwich Arsenal also serve Stratford International (Travelcard zone 2/3).
Docklands Light Railway services to and from Canary Wharf (connections for Greenwich and Lewisham) also stop at Pudding Mill Lane, which is in Travelcard zone 2. This is the closest stop to the Stadium and the Station has been rebuilt to cope with crowds attending events there.
London Overground services also stop at Hackney Wick, which is in Travelcard zone 2. The walking route from here into the Park is via a fascinating old industrial area where most of the buildings are still in use; those no longer in industrial use have been taken over by creative enterprises, small businesses and artists (Hackney Wick is currently said to have the greatest concentration of artists in Europe).
Stratford International is served by the Southeastern Highspeed services from Kent, and from London St Pancras which is just seven minutes away. Note that London Travelcards are not valid on this route and special fares apply, including for Oyster pay-as-you-go users.
* Getting from Stratford Station to the main entrance can be confusing - the signage is a bit misleading. Turn from the Westfield exit of the station along the mall road called "The Street", which takes you straight to the main entrance to the Park in about 5 min.
Bus route 388 (Blackfriars Station - Liverpool Street - Bethnal Green - Hackney Wick - Stratford City Bus Station) runs right through the heart of the Park every day, at up to10-minute intervals. Great views of several of the iconic Olympic and Paralympic venues, and over the Park generally can be had from the top deck. Note that Stratford City Bus Station is the small terminus adjacent to the Westfield Shopping Centre, and not the main bus station outside Stratford Station, in the Town Centre. Buses stop at iCity, The Copper Box and Westfield Avenue.
Alight at 'The Copper Box' stop for the North Park, The Copper Box Arena, The Timber Lodge, the Lee Valley Velopark and the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
Alight at the 'Westfield Avenue' stop for the South Park, The Stadium, The Podium, The Aquatic Centre and The ArcelorMittal Orbit.
Bus routes 339 (Shadwell - Stratford City - Leytonstone) and 108 (Lewisham - North Greenwich - Poplar - Stratford International) stop at The Aquatic Centre, which is convenient for the South Park, Podium, Stadium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Bus 339 also serves East Village.
Bus route 308 (Wanstead - Stratford City Bus Station - Clapton Pond) serves East Village and has stops close to the Lee Valley Velodrome and the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
Bus route 97 (Chingford - Walthamstow - Stratford City Bus Station) serves East Village, and also stops at Westfield Avenue.
Buses 241 and 108 also serve Stratford City Bus Station.
A number of other bus routes serve Stratford Bus Station and/or Stratford Broadway. These include routes 25, 69, 86, 104, 108, 158, 238, 257, 262, 276, 425, 473 & D8. There is a large walkway linking Stratford Bus Station and Town Centre directly with the Westfield Shopping Centre.
Bus W15 stops close to the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on the northern edge of the Park, alight at the Smithfield Market stop.
On foot or cycle
Access to the Park is available at Hackney Wick (White Post Lane and Wallis Road), Fish Island, Stratford High Street via The Greenway, Westfield Shopping Centre, Hackney Marshes, Temple Mills Lane and Draper's Fields, Leyton. More new bridges are being built to the west of the Park to further link the Hackney Wick and Fish Island areas into the Park.
THE OLYMPIC VENUES
As important as building world-class venues is the 'legacy' - creating an Olympic Park which regenerates what had been a run-down industrial area and providing excellent facilities in what is historically a deprived area of London.
The Stadium: West Ham United moved into the former Olympic Stadium at the beginning of the 2016-17 football season. Work included extending the roof to cover all seats (the iconic triangular floodlights were reinstalled upside down under the roof structure) and putting in new retractable seating sections so football fans can be closer to the field of play whilst also allowing athletics events to be held. The capacity was reduced from 80,000 to 60,000. The Stadium will also be used for concerts and sporting events, including the World Athletics Championships in 2017. The Stadium - link
Aquatic Centre: The two wings, which contained specator seating for 15,000, were removed to reveal the late Zaha Hadid's striking design in its full glory. The venue hosts training and competitions, and is also open to the public at the same cost as other swimming pools locally. The Aquatic Centre - link
The Copper Box: Its official and rather mundane title was 'The Multi-Use Arena', but this venue really caught the popular imagination and will always be known by its nickname. As well as hosting a variety of indoor sporting events it is available for concerts and corporate events, and includes a gym and café for public use. The Copper Box Arena - link
The Velodrome: The sleek design is the centrepiece of the new Lee Valley Velopark, intended as a centre of cycling excellence and ensuring that Great Britain continues to excel at the sport. The BMX track has been adapted for further use and there are mountain bike trails, bicycle hire and workshop facilities, and a café. Lee Valley Velopark - link
Eton Manor: This venue is the home of the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, and hsoted the European Hockey Championships in 2015. Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre - link
The Athletes' Village: This area is now known as 'East Village', and lies to the north of the Westfield Shopping Centre and Stratford International stations, either side of Celebration Avenue. The flats that were built to house the athletes during the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been reconfigured and made available to the public to buy or rent. Additional blocks have been built, and extensive landscaping has created additional green spaces including areas where rainwater is collected for reuse. Bus routes 97, 308 and 339 have been rerouted to serve the area. Nearest Station: Stratford International DLR (zone 3).
The Riverbank Arena, Basketball Arena and Water Polo Arena were only ever intended to be temporary structures and were dismantled after the 2012 Games.
Away from London, Eton Dorney Rowing Lake and the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy will continue to benefit from the Olympic investment. The mountain bike course at Hadleigh Farm, near Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, was adapted for public use and the adjacent Hadleigh Country Park was expanded and enhanced with a new Visitor Centre and café. The Lee Valley White Water Centre near Waltham Cross offers canoeing, kayaking and white-water rafting, and hosted the Canoe Slalom World Championships in 2015. Lee Valley White Water Centre