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Stratford: One Square Mile of the UK

Years ago, Stratford was famous for its Yardley Girls, the workers at the famous perfume factory.

On their break from playing a part in building a great British brand, they would walk the streets and canal towpaths where the Olympic Park now stands, spreading the scent of lavender behind them.

The black and white photos of the time show them sporting smiles as wide as the River Thames. All around were other smells too, from the odours of a dog food factory to the fumes of a paint firm, explaining how the area earned its nickname - 'Stinky Stratford'.

The area was a hard-working part of London's East End, home to the poorest and least advantaged in the capital. Today it's one of the most diverse and most deprived areas in the country, yet still has an identity and character to make any big city proud.

"As long as I live, I'll be proud of my part in making all this happen," says Geoff, a builder who is retiring after the Olympics. He has worked from the bottom to the top of the 2012 Olympic Arena.

"To do this from scratch is the best thing I've ever done. I want my children to watch and know that I helped build this, he told the BBC.

He is typical of the great potential of the Olympic dream to motivate and inspire. Young athletes and construction workers can share the same sense of occasion. There is a buzz around the stadiums and other parts of Stratford.

But just next door, they've been building a strong sense of community too for years. From the teenagers' community centre to the artists in warehouses, others in Stratford have been watching the changing landscape.

Image caption In 2012, all roads will lead to Stratford

"Stratford needs a break," one teenager says. "It can be tough for kids on these streets, and they need something else to look up to. It's good we're getting attention and the Olympics will be good for us."

But as the buildings have been rising, so too have the rents. Artists can be found all over the warehouses and once-derelict workshops of this square mile. In the artist's centre Stour Space, the co-founder Rebecca Whyte told me what locals made of the Olympics:

"There's been extremely mixed reviews over the last couple of years. We've tried to keep in communication with as many different types of people as possible. Local residents have had a hard time with increases in rent or change of the area that might affect their business.

"Equally, there've been some fantastic developments - new street lights, better provision for bins, better provision for our residents. So it's good and bad and I think the question now is how it's going to create a long term legacy for the community that's already here."

This is the question that all host cities have grappled with in recent Olympics. Long after the crowds and athletes leave, what can the locals keep to help them improve their lives?

City dwellers often feel powerless in the teeth of the financial crisis and the decisions taken by the big banks and authorities.

The Olympic dream works best when it's spread around, as I heard from Stevie, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who was allowed to join hockey players training and on tour.

"Don't just sit there expecting people to come to the Olympics, you've got to take it to them, and then they'll see what a great chance it can be," she says.