The London Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2012 are now over, with the Games generally considered very successful with plenty of home success. Now that it’s over, it’s time to review the Olympic Park. The park is located in the East London district of Stratford and played host to sports including Athletics, Swimming, Diving, track and BMX Cycling, Basketball, Hockey and Handball.
There was easy access to the London Olympic Park during the games via the London Underground, which is how the majority of spectators accessed the park. Stratford Underground Station is right on the door step. The only downside was that it could get particularly busy after the evening Athletics sessions, with eighty-thousand people leaving on mass. Many chose to take the thirty minute walk to West Ham Station instead, as the wait would often be longer than this at Stratford.
Reaching Stratford Station was easy from Central London and the main London Train Stations. It was reachable directly on the Central Line from Central London and directly on the Jubilee Line from Waterloo. Spectators coming from King’s Cross or Victoria had one stop on their journey to the Olympic Park; the Northern Line changing at Bank from King’s Cross and the Victoria Line changing at Oxford Circus from Victoria.
While the Underground links to the park were good, this was really the only option for spectators. With no parking it was not possible to drive making it problematic for some, but in some ways this made sense due to the large numbers of people and the congestion that would otherwise have occurred.
Entrance and Security
Entrance to the Olympic Park was quick and easy most of the time. There were generally no queues or very short queues due to the arrival of spectators being spread across the day and the large size of the entrance area. Security was perhaps a little over the top with all spectators having to go through airport-style security and even water being confiscated. There was, though, drinking water available from inside and it was possible to take empty bottles in.
To access the venues themselves there was no further security. All that was required was to show your ticket and have it scanned by one of the volunteers. This meant a speedy entrance.
The Olympic volunteers, who have been nicknamed the “games makers”, have been widely praised amongst London 2012 organisers and the media, and rightly so. They were all very friendly and upbeat and were happy to help whenever requested to by spectators.
Getting Around the Olympic Park
The Olympic Park was vast in size, with many surprised as to just how big it was. Walking from one end to the other took around thirty minutes even via the most direct route. It was, though, easy to get around. Wheelchairs were available free of charge to those who required them and there were golf-buggy like vehicles passing regularly that those finding it difficult to walk around could board. Despite there being many thousands of people around it wasn’t difficult to get around. The main walk-ways were very wide, everything was well sign posted and there were maps dotted all around the park.
Things To Do
Outside of live sport there was plenty else to do at the London Olympic Park. There was a large grass area in the middle of the park that included large screens with sports action and a stage with live music. There was also the Olympic Orbit, a tower with an observation deck at the top. From here there were views over the Olympic Park to one side and the River Thames and the Canary Warf area to the other. This may have been better situated had it been more central as it would have offered a better view of the park. The Orbit wasn’t the best looking structure within the park and divided opinion.
Facilities and Food
There were plenty of food outlets throughout the park with a large variety of food available. Although expensive, it was no more than most other sporting venues tend to be. The Olympic Park had the world’s largest McDonald restaurant, perhaps not the most appropriate message for an event that should be promoting sport and healthy living.
Although well stocked with Olympic merchandise, the official Olympic Shop had massive queues; sometimes you would have to queue for two hours just to get in the door. This could have been better managed, perhaps with more shops situated in different areas of the park.
Throughout the park there were plenty of toilets and, as a consequence, no big queues. They could get busier at times within the venues themselves just prior to and just after an event, especially the Ladies toilets. The standard of cleanliness was average.
Venue: Olympic Stadium
The Athletics stadium was the centre-piece of the Olympic Park (although not located in the centre). It was always full and there was always a good atmosphere. The stadium was well designed and even the cheapest seats offered an excellent view. During Athletics events there was commentary over the loud speaker making the action easy to follow, although it could have been a little better for the field events.
Venue: Aquatics Centre
Host to the Swimming and Diving events, the Aquatics Centre had a compact feel. The spectators were always enthusiastic and supported athletes from all nations. One weakness was that despite it being “sold out” there were sometimes empty seats. There were some complaints about the quality of the seating for the Diving events, with some claiming they couldn’t see the action properly.
Many described the track Cycling venue as being the loudest of all the venues, no doubt helped by the amount of success for Team GB. There were good views of the action from everywhere and it was the best looking building from the outside, which was party wooden.
Venue: Basketball Arena
The Basketball Arena had a bubble-like look on the outside, which wasn’t to the taste of everyone. Inside, though, there was a good atmosphere with an intimate feel.
Overall, London 2012 was a huge success, much helped by the spectacular Olympic Park and some world class venues. Some of the venues will now be removed and some altered, with others remaining as they are.
Andrew Marshall ©