OLYMPICS – FOUR YEARS ON

As the world watches Rio host the Olympic Games, Sam Rogg looks at the re­gen­er­a­tion of east Lon­don and finds out how you can join in the fun

Where London - - Contents -

As the Rio Olympics be­gin, find out where to watch the Games and how to make the most of Lon­don’s Olympic Park.

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’s 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. Lon­don’s 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 Strat­ford-upon-Avon), but now it’s one of the most ex­cit­ing bor­oughs in the cap­i­tal, dubbed the ‘new east Lon­don’ 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 any­where in Europe and we have the The­atre Royal Strat­ford East, too.’ Nearby you’ll also find the largest shop­ping mall in Europe, West­field Strat­ford City, with more than 200 stores, 70 din­ing spots and a new 65,000ft casino, Aspers, with its own 24-hour restau­rant, cock­tail and sports bars. In­side the for­mer 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 and last year we in­tro­duced a num­ber of bee­hives which have al­ready pro­duced 60 jars of honey,’ says Tu­dor. This sum­mer, the pop­u­lar BeachEast returns for a sec­ond year with its vast stretch of white sand, paddling pool, fun-fair rides and a car­ni­val at­mos­phere to ri­val Rio’s. Take part in free ac­tiv­i­ties such as beach vol­ley­ball, pad­dle board­ing and a monthly 10k race.

Over in the Park’s East Vil­lage, 3,000 peo­ple now live in for­mer ath­letes’ ac­com­mo­da­tion, sur­rounded by trendy bars and cafés. Tu­dor’s ad­vice? ‘Sig­norelli does a great cup of cof­fee, and any cock­tail bar with the name Tina, We Salute You has to be worth a visit,’ he says.

Make the most of the Park in full bloom and take a boat trip along the canal or hire a bike from the San­tander Cy­cles dock­ing sta­tions to ex­plore some hid­den gems – we rec­om­mend the Great Bri­tish Gar­den near the Sta­dium, themed on the colours of Olympic medals: bronze, sil­ver and gold. Or why not 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! „

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