A couple of weeks ago I went to Queen Elizabeth II park – or the London 2012 Olympic Park as it’s known to most of us. I’d been there during the Olympics and loved it. Going back brought back all the memories of that glorious summer of sporting success. Mo Farah on the track, paralympian Ellie Simmonds in the pool and a whole raft of superstars in the velodrome including Victoria Pendelton, Laura Trott and Sir Chris Hoy.
Sadly the same couldn’t be said about our able bodied swimmers with only three medals at the London 2012 Olympics – Michael Jamieson who scooped silver in the 200 breaststroke and Rebecca Adlington who managed two bronzes (400 and 800 freestyle). But things move on and now the site is open to the general public with a whole host of new and interesting things to do. Here we pick our top 5 of things to do at the park.
1 ) Aquatics Centre – It’s not often you get chance to swim in a 50m Olympic Pool and this is chance that shouldn’t be missed. If you’re more used to short course (25m pools) the first thing you notice is just how long it is. Thankfully wide lanes are provided for serious swimmers (it was’t that busy when we went) and there’s also an area where you can swim casually. Olympic bronze medallist and Splash! presenter Tom Daley can also be spotted down in the diving pool training for the Rio Olympics.
2) ArcelorMittal Orbit – OK the design of it isn’t to everyone’s taste (it looks like an old, out of control rollercoaster) but the Mittal Orbit is well worth a visit. Designed by Anish Kapoor it’s the UK’s tallest sculpture at 114.5m tall and offers some great views over London. Prices vary but typically it will set you back around £12 for children (there’s a discount for Newham residents).
3) Lee Valley VeloPark – At the far end of the Olympic Park lies the former Olympic Velodrome. You can choose from cycling the track in the iconic velodrome, jump on the re-modelled BMX track or race around the park on the road circuit. Coming soon is mountain bike skills section (trails open late May). For more information go to http://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/or watch this video below.
4) Tumbling Bay Playground – While the South Plaza close to the ArcelorMittal Orbit is where you’ll find a playground for little kids with small climbing walls, if you want a bit more of a challenge then check out the climbing at the back of the park (next to Alfred’s Meadow where you can see the Olympic rings, pictured right).
Here you’ll also find a big treehouse (see pic below) with wobbly wooden walkways as well as sandpits and water hydrants for the younger kids.
5) Timber Lodge – Worn out after all your adventures in the Olympic Park? Close to the Velopark lies a wood-walled solar powered cafe. The kitchen is a social enterprise with jobs for local people with disabilities. Food’s not bad, and decently priced, but one of the biggest draws is probably going to be the free wi-fi!