"Perhaps the greatest event that the nation will ever experience..."
When you think of British Olympians, no doubt a few names will spring to mind. The likes of Anthony Joshua, Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jonnie Peacock are just a handful of stars who made their mark on Britain’s Olympic legacy and indeed Olympic history overall, when they topped the podium on home soil. We may never witness again such an incredible sporting spectacle as we did at London 2012. Renowned film director Danny Boyle was given the job to choreograph the opening ceremony and it certainly didn’t disappoint, with cameo appearances from James Bond and Her Majesty the Queen, amongst others.
Alongside some 14,000 athletes and 800,000 spectators came numerous new stadiums and sports centres. The London Stadium, built in Stratford, which played home to various track and field events, including the football final, cost an initial £280 million. It’s now nine years since we hosted the greatest sporting show on earth — the question is though, what do the stadiums and venues do now? Are they lying dormant, or are they being utilised effectively in the aftermath of the Olympics?
In this article, alongside drainage consultants, Patrick Parsons, we explore the numerous venues used and specifically constructed for the 2012 Olympics, and how they are being used now.
The Olympic Stadium
Undoubtedly the most contentious of the stadiums or venues involved in the 2012 Olympic games, and it remains so even now. Now playing home to West Ham United Football Club, the 80,000-seater stadium, which has subsequently been reduced to 66,000 since The Hammers took it over, hosted the maximum capacity crowd who witnessed Mo Farah claim his second Olympic gold while Jamaican sensation Usain Bolt acquired his career sixth. As the curtains were drawn on perhaps the greatest event that the nation will ever experience, renditions of Waterloo Sunset, What Makes You Beautiful, and West End Girls, bellowed out in a very-fitting closing ceremony that celebrated Britain’s majestic history. West Ham won the bid for the ground and so they brought Premier League football across town in August 2016. Alongside hosting football, the 2015 Rugby World Cup came to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as did league team Saracens, and this year it will host the Muller Anniversary Games.
The Aquatic Centre
Paralympian Ellie Simmonds will be one with fond memories of the facility at Queen Elizabeth park — she landed two gold medals here after heroic performances. Initial construction costs for the aquatic centre were estimated to be around £75 million, however the final bill came in at more than three times this, provoking backlash. During the games, extra stands were built on to the building to allow for an audience of 17,500 viewers, yet after the athletes departed, and the decision was made to turn the vibrant baths into a community pool, the additional seating was removed. For a non-member to swim in the same lanes that the most decorated Olympian in history did, it will cost you only £5.30 — bargain.
The 6,000-seater cycling venue was dubbed the ‘best of its kind in the world’ when it opened. Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton were among the gold medallists at the £94 million centre. After the success of the Olympics, the velodrome was opened to the public. Lee Valley VeloPark as it is otherwise known, offers visitors the opportunity to participate in BMX, track and mountain bike racing. While the track is open to the public throughout most of the year, it does also still host high profile events such as the UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
Unfortunately, the usable life of everything from the Olympic games doesn’t quite out-live the three-week event. The home to basketball at the 2012 London Olympics isn’t something to get uptight about however. A temporary arena was always the plan, and so the structure was covered in 20,000 squared metre of recyclable PVC fabric. Despite being able to house 12,000 fans during the event, when everything finished, the structure was simply taken down like a tent, the metal packed away, and the plastic recycled — as if the games didn’t give us enough inspiring stories.
Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre
During the 2012 Olympics, the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre was used as the only purpose-built Paralympic stadium. Playing host to the 2012 wheelchair tennis event, the venue, last year, went on to host a bigger crowd than it did during the games. The Women’s Hockey World Cup was hosted in London for the very first time in 2018, and it was the biggest hockey event the United Kingdom has ever witnessed. Despite hosting world championships, just like its counterparts, the Hockey & Tennis Centre hasn’t neglected the community either — opening up to the public and encouraging local but particularly younger children to get involved in sport.
Sadly, over the course of history we have witnessed several occasions in which major sporting events have come to town, millions of pounds have been invested into constructing super-seater stadiums, and then once everything is over, the regeneration programme turns to rack and ruin. Of course, there exist circumstances in which London hasn’t maintained its manufacturing works, but the project as a whole is definitely something we can all be proud of.