London's Olympic Legacy Lives On
As the world unites for the greatest sporting event on Earth – the Olympic Games (5-21 Aug) – we can’t help but feel that this year’s host, Rio de Janeiro, has a tough act to follow.
It is four years since the Queen ‘parachuted’ into London’s Olympic Stadium as part of an unforgettable opening ceremony that set the tone for the rest of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Directed by Danny Boyle, the ceremony was a celebration of everything that makes Britain great, from Shakespeare and David Bowie to the NHS and multiculturalism. The Games were flawless and fabulous – even the weather was good! But what lasting impact did they have?
Before the 2012 Games, you might not have considered visiting Stratford (not to be confused with Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon) but now it’s one of London’s most exciting boroughs, thanks to the multi-billion-pound Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
‘East London is a melting pot of different interests and perspectives with a vibrant culture like nowhere else in London,’ says Peter Tudor, the park’s director of visitor services. ‘Just across the park in Hackney Wick is one of the greatest concentration of artists in Europe and we have the Theatre Royal Stratford East.’ Nearby you’ll also find the largest shopping mall in Europe, Westfield Stratford City, with more than 200 stores, 70 dining spots and the new Aspers Casino with a 24-hour restaurant and bars.
Inside the Olympic Park, you can soak up the sunshine across 560 acres of lush parklands and waterways that attract diverse wildlife. ‘We have already achieved Green Flag status for our green credentials,’ says Tudor.
This summer, the hugely popular BeachEast has a vast stretch of white sand, a paddling pool, funfair rides, Team GB Fanzone and a carnival atmosphere to rival Rio. Enjoy free activities such as beach volleyball and paddle boarding. Over in the park’s East Village, 3,000 people live in former athletes’ accommodation, surrounded by bars and cafés. The former press centre is now Here East, a new digital quarter with places to meet, eat, shop and relax.
Make the most of the park in full bloom and take a boat trip along the canal or hire a bike from Santander Cycles to explore hidden gems – we recommend the Great British Garden, themed on the colours of the Olympic medals. Or relive the magic of London 2012 and visit the venues where records were broken. Whether you’re a spectator or a budding Olympian, there’s something for everyone. On your marks, get set, go!