Lonely Planet review
Creating world-class sporting facilities for the 2012 Games was, of course, at the forefront of the development, but this was well balanced with the aim of regenerating this area for generations to come. More than 30 new bridges were built to criss-cross the River Lea. Waterways in and around the park were upgraded, with waste cleared and contaminated soil cleaned on a massive scale.
From the mills of Cistercian monks in the 1st century, to the railway hub of the 1880s (from which goods from the Thames were transported all over Britain), the tidal Lower Lea Valley had long been the source of what Londoners required to fuel their industries. But until building work on the Olympic Park began in 2008, this vast area of East London had become derelict, polluted and largely ignored.
The main focal point of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as it is now known, is the Olympic Stadium, with a Games capacity of 80,000, scaling back to approximately 60,000 seats post-games. The striking Aquatics Centre is the work of Clerkenwell-based architect Zaha Hadid and houses two 50m swimming pools and a diving pool. The equally impressive and award-winning Velodrome (aka the ‘Pringle’) has been praised for its aesthetic qualities, as well as its sustainable credentials and functional appeal. The 114m, spiralling red structure is Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit, or the ‘Hubble Bubble Pipe’, offering a vast panorama from its viewing platform.
The north of the park has been given over to wetlands, which provide a much wilder environment than the gardens and landscaping of the southern half of the park, which is home to the main venues. Set to open to the public in phases, the developments to transform the park into its promised legacy will take at least another 25 years to complete.