London’s infectious case of Olympic fever
After the Games, the hockey and basketball arenas will be recycled into other uses, or perhaps reassembled for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. The Olympic Stadium will be the new home of the West Ham United football club, and the Olympic Village will convert into at least 2,800 apartments and a new school for the arts. The Velodrome, Aquatics Centre and handball arenas will continue to function as venues for biking, swimming and other sports, but in Legacy, the general public can have a go at breaking world records in them.
Looking down on the Olympic site from the Greenway is electrifying for its scale and impending glory, but the distance from the venues is a disappointment. Fortunately the ODA offers weekend bus tours that bring you through the heart of the park and around the buildings. Some of the bus rides are narrated by a Blue Badge guides and it covers much of the same Olympic and local history as with the walking tour, but it is free and closer to the action. There are two catches to the bus tour: you need to book weeks in advance (the daily walking tour accommodates increasing visitors by splitting groups among multiple guides) and you can only do the tour once a year. Take it now and you can return just before the Games begin.
Long after we have forgotten the achievement of individual athletes, it is the host cities we remember for their Olympic success. In 2002, I visited what was then the future site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and it was nothing more than a dusty field with a small billboard. But the pride the city and its residents displayed in their preparations for the event was moving and rightly placed-Beijing pulled off a triumph of pageantry and civic achievement. At the conclusion of it, they handed the hosting duties over to London via a red double-decker bus carrying David Beckham that drove into the Bird's Nest stadium. From what I saw at the half-erected construction site and enthusiastic crowds in Stratford, London is on pace to give Beijing a run for its money.
To book the ODA's weekend bus tour into the Olympic site, call +44 (0) 300-2012-001. For more information on the 2012 Olympics visit www.london2012.com. There are several private tour companies and many guides visiting the Greenway, but one of the largest is the daily walking tour described above by Tour Guides LTD, which can be booked at www.tourguides2012.co.uk and costs 9 pounds. To visit the site on your own, the entrance to the Greenway is just outside the Pudding Mill DLR station of the Underground.