Last weekend’s Open East Festival was more than just a first-anniversary celebration of London’s phenomenally successful 2012 Olympic Games. It also heralded the launch of a new, world-class destination for leisure and recreation in the English capital – the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Designed to ensure the Games’ site in Stratford enjoys a lasting legacy, the park has been painstakingly renovated over the last 12 months – creating beautiful parkland, refurbished sports venues and improved transport connections.
This mammoth task is not yet complete and the south part of the park won’t be accessible until next spring. For now, though, those staying at hotel accommodation in London should find it well worth paying a visit to what’s there already.
Sporting enthusiasts wishing to utilise the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s state-of-the-art facilities should make a beeline for the Copper Box – the first of the site’s venues to reopen. This 7,500-seat arena – the third largest of its kind in London, according to park authorities – hosted the handball, modern pentathlon fencing and paralympic goalball during the 2012 Games. Now, visitors can use a cutting-edge gym, take group exercise classes or play badminton in the enormous sports hall, or just enjoy a coffee in the on-site cafe.
Those looking to spend their time at the park in a more relaxing manner, meanwhile, should head up to the Parklands that stretch along the River Lea. This public garden has been carefully landscaped to provide a natural haven for wildlife and the perfect spot for a picnic. It’s also home to a couple of rowing and canoeing clubs, so visitors can even take to the water if desired.
Finally, the Timber Lodge should prove an essential hub from which tourists can explore the north part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Described by park authorities as a “buzzy cafe and meeting place”, this venue is truly eco-friendly – it generates all of its energy from solar panels. As summer winds on, it’ll be used to host regular exhibitions and activities.