Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Stratford and the 2012 Olympics

Stratford City development
Not so long ago it was a pretty safe bet that any tourist visiting London had never heard of a place called Stratford. I am of course referring to the Stratford in East London rather than the birthplace of William Shakespeare!  To most Londoners the name used to conjure up visions of depressing concrete towers, industrial wastelands and teenage gangs.  This place was definitely NOT on the tourist trail! 

All that has changed now that Stratford has become the main site for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The area will be home to the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, as well as a huge retail, leisure, and residential development called Stratford City.

In the years since winning the Olympic bid the area has been little more than a large building site, for the most part cordoned off from public view. 
Olympic Stadium from the Greenway
With the 2012 Olympics fast approaching, much of the building work has now been completed. The Stratford City development is now open (more about this in my next post).  The Olympic Park buildings are all nearing completion, with the Olympic Stadium itself now finished.

If you want to see the Olympic Park it's now possible to do so.  For a really close-up view you might be able to join an organised tour of the site itself but places are very limited and demand no doubt very high.  Failing this, perhaps the best way of seeing the park, and in particular the Olympic Stadium, is either from the the viewing platform in the View Tube (a cafe made from shipping containers) or from the adjacent Greenway footpath.
The View Tube

River Lea

To access both the Greenway and View Tube you will need to get the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) from Stratford to Pudding Mill Lane (1 stop).  From here it's just a short walk - simply follow the signs past a security checkpoint (don't worry, they're not going to search you!), eventually reaching the Greenway footpath.  To your right you will see a bright yellow building which is the View Tube.  For additional views of the Olympic Stadium you might want to walk west along the Greenway for a few hundred yards until you reach the bridge over the River Lea.  From here retrace your steps to get back to Pudding Mill Lane DLR station.  The Olympic Stadium can also be seen from the new Westfield Stratford City complex which I'll be talking about in my next post.

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