International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
After a thunderous summer of drama, noise and sporting glory, the now-famous Olympic venues of East London have fallen silent. The hard work begins now to deliver on ‘legacy’, an intangible, immeasurable term much loved by anyone publicly associated with Stratford and the London 2012 Olympics.
But the project is off, it seems, to a good start. Indeed, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, has raved, ‘This great historical city has created a legacy blueprint for future games hosts.’ One of the greatest fears among pre-games skeptics was that Stratford would be home to a series of architectural white elephants, but a year of redevelopment will see the site transformed into a new public park and sports facilities, known as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Visitors to the Olympics and Paralympics will have noted the wildflowers and waterways alongside huge works of art, which will now mingle with new housing, schools and office complexes. The ugly yet already iconic Orbit, Britain’s largest piece of public art, will also remain, offering fine views from its ungainly structure.
One point of controversy that remains is whether the games will bring more tourists to Britain in the long term. At 5.6 million, holiday visits to Britain in the first half of 2012 were two percent up on last year, and Visit Britain claimed forward bookings are ‘good’ as they unveiled an ambitious push to capitalise on the feel-good factor. The aim is for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to become the focus of the third day of many international visitors’ stays in London, once they’ve explored the area around the South Bank and central London’s other big-ticket sights.
So what’s happening to the Olympics venues?
Aquatics Centre (“The Great Wave”)
The main swimming competitions venue had its capacity reduce to 2,500 people, and it will be reopening in 2014 as a public pool. It will also host the 2016 LEN European Swimming Championships.
Home to training pools during the Olympics and wheelchair tennis in the Paralympics, it will host the 2015 European Hockey Championship.
Multi-Use Arena (“The Copper-Box”)
With a capacity of 6,000, the “box that rocks” is London’s third largest indoor arena and will be used for various sports, including basketball.
West Ham United FC and Essex Country Cricket Club are among those bidding for the venue’s lease. The stadium will keep the track and host the 2017 World Athletics Championship.
Velodrome (“The Pringle”)
The Velodrome and BMX track will be joined by a road cycling track and mountain bike trails snaking round the venue to form the new “Velopark”.
Tom Hall is Lonely Planet’s UK-based web editor.
This article was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.