Must See Attractions at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London
Too many times, the aftermath of an Olympics leaves white elephants — mega structures unused and abandoned once the games have ended. Case in point is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, host of the 2016 Olympics and the various venues left rotting, from the Maracanã Stadium to the Rio Media Center and the aquatics facilities. In the case of Athens, Greece, which hosted the 2004 Olympics, it is even worse, as the now decrepit structures built for the Olympiad have essentially become the new ruins of Greece.
That, however, has not been the case for London, host of the 2012 Olympics. The New York Times recounts in ‘London, Olympic Park’s Legacy is Sustainability,’ that the organizers were told right after hosting rights were awarded to the city that there were to be “no white elephants.”
Seven years after hosting the 2012 Olympics, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park continues to thrive as its facilities have been converted for public use after the games, with attractions added to entice people to visit. It has become an attraction in itself - as much a London landmark as the London Eye and Hyde Park.
Lee Valley VeloPark
In the London Olympics, Team Great Britain dominated cycling by winning 12 medals in all — 8 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze. They won a few of those medals in the London Velopark, which has since been remodeled and rechristened the Lee Valley VeloPark. It has become one of the main attractions at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as visitors can participate in four different types of cycling; track, BMX, road, and mountain biking.
Additionally, this state-of-the-art, 6,000-seater velodrome is still being used for high profile events, notably the UCI Track Cycling World Championships. So, don’t be surprised if you catch some of the world’s best cyclists in action when you come to visit.
London Aquatics Centre
The Aquatics Centre is regarded as one of the most stunning venues of the 2012 London Olympics. It boasts a unique, curved design that gives the facility a futuristic look and vibe.
Inside are two 50-meter Olympic pools and a 25-meter diving pool — all of which can be used by the public for a reasonable fee. It’s a lot smaller now than the 2012 version, which required the addition of a pair of “wings.” These structures housed spectators for the swimming events, and they witnessed the American swimmer Michael Phelps become the most bemedaled Olympian of all time. But even sans the wings, the Aquatics Centre remains just as impressive with its distinct architecture.
The London Stadium
The London Stadium played a prominent role in the 2012 Olympics. Now, it is the home of West Ham United, a soccer club who play in the prestigious English Premier League. It’s a wonderful bit of architecture, and the stadium is the perfect venue to experience the country’s national sport. Even though West Ham are only mid-table in the Premier League, some of the very best players in the world play here against the famous Irons. This season, West Ham are expected to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League by bwin, which has been the case in the club’s first two seasons at the London Stadium. At the very minimum, you'll get to watch top tier soccer.
Alternatively, you could go on the stadium tour, which includes, an interactive history tour of the stadium (via a handheld device, no less), visits to the dressing rooms, and plenty of photo-ops along the way.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was also used for the 2012 Paralympics, and Mandeville Place was created as a tribute to the games (the first Paralympics were held in 1952 in Stoke Mandeville, England).
Here, you'll see a majestic orchard filled with a variety of fruit trees, provided by each one of the UK's 34 Paralympics gold medalists. There are even pavilions where you can kick back and relax. It also bears a reminder of one of Stephen Hawking’s memorable lines during the opening of the 2012 Olympics: "Don’t look down at your feet, look up at the sky; be curious."
Located on the main bridge north of the park is The Agitos (literally “I move” in Latin), the simple yet meaningful logo of the Paralympics. It features three curved swishes colored red, blue, and green - chosen because they are the three colors most used in flags across the world.
The design itself is symbolic of the Paralympics' four core values, namely courage, inspiration, determination, and equality. The Agitos you will see - four meters high, three meters wide - is the original one used during the 2012 Paralympics, making it a historic part of this iconic London Park.
As with any destination featured here on Sidetracked, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London has attractions for the whole family. The great thing is, a day will be all you need. But chances are, you'll want to go back because the park has so much to offer.
This article was produced in collaboration with Timmi Jen.
Like it? Pin it!