As images arise from Athens and Sochi, massive stadiums going unused and crumbling, there is great debate about the necessity to spend billions upon billions building venues and infrastructure for hosting the Olympics. Like the rest of recent host cities, London built massive new stadiums and spent a bucketload (or billions of bucket loads to be more precise). But what has happened to those facilities since 2012? Well, London turned Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park into a hub of activity and built a sporting playground for Londoners to enjoy.
Most cities, London included, have little use for an enormous Olympic Stadium. London built the stadium solely for temporary use, which seems ridiculous, considering its construction cost of almost £500 million. Luckily, someone got wise and decided to repurpose it, so the East London English Premier League club, West Ham United, will move into the stadium for the 2016-2017 season and immediately have one of the most modern football stadiums in the UK, if not Europe. Smart.
The London Aquatics Centre, host of the swimming events for the games, is now a public pool. For around £3, you can swim (or do cannonballs off the diving boards if you so choose) in the same pool used by Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes. The center also holds swim lessons, clinics and competitions as well. Not to mention, the building itself is a stunner.
The Copper Box Arena, which hosted handball and goal ball (no, I have no idea what that is either) has been turned into a massive gym, with eighty stations and multiple studios. The arena also hosts boxing matches and is the home of London’s professional basketball team, the London Lions, since it was built with retractable seating for up to 7,500 spectators.
On the northern end of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the beautiful Velodrome, the Olympic cycling center. While this would probably definitely go unused in most countries, cycling is popular in the UK, so the Velodrome holds events with relative frequency. Around the Velodrome, in an area now known as the Lee Valley VeloPark, a spectacular one-mile, flood-lit cycling road circuit has been built, a shrunken version of an race car track. Nearby, they constructed a mountain biking course, which runs around the VeloPark and through the park near the canal.
Nearby, the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre reopened to the public last year. There are two field hockey fields, six outdoor tennis courts and four indoor tennis courts. As a regular visitor to the tennis courts I can vouch that they are some of the nicest in the city and the indoor courts are definitely the best in London.
The park itself is still very much a work in progress, but it has already brought vibrancy to the area. There is also the ArcelorMittal Orbit (yes, that is its actual name) which is the tallest public art installation in the UK and after climbing and winding your way to the top, provides a spectacular view of London. More work is in store as well, and more green space has yet to be completed, but London has developed a purpose for facilities that were only meant to matter for two weeks. Instead, Londoners like ourselves get to enjoy them on a daily basis.
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