How to visit Britain's best Olympic sites
Inspired by the Olympics? Want to recapture some of the excitement by visiting some of the best venues and attractions left in the wake of London 2012?
With the help of the travel experts at Visit England I have made my own medal-winning list of the best places to visit to do with the Olympics.
Don't forget that dozens of new venues and attractions were specifically constructed for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. After the fuss and frenzy about this colossal event has settled, there's still plenty left to see. From shopping malls to white water rafting facilities, the legacy that London 2012 leaves behind is sure to attract millions of tourists.
Here are some of the best things to see:
EMIRATES AIR LINE, GREENWICH, LONDON
Opened in June 2012, the Emirates Air Line cable car carries up to 2,500 people an hour across the Thames in each direction, a number which would otherwise take 30 buses an hour. Built with the Olympic influx of visitors in mind, the cable car links either side of the river to speed up river crossings even after the London 2012 buzz dies down. Connecting the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks in under five minutes, with cabins travelling every 30 seconds, the Emirates Air Line makes east London more accessible than ever. http://emiratesairline.co.uk/
QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK, STRATFORD, LONDON
Following the grand finale of the summer’s sporting events, construction workers returned to turn this complex of attention-grabbing and award-winning arenas into the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The plan is to make the Park one of Europe’s premier visitor destinations.
The Olympic site was the largest planting project ever undertaken in the UK creating the largest new park in London for over a century with 300,000 wetland plants, oak, ash, hazel, holly, willow, blackthorn and hawthorn being added.
At the time of writing the latest news is that North Park opens first on 27 July 2013 and South Park will be more like Q1 2014.
AQUATICS CENTRE, OLYMPIC PARK, STRATFORD, LONDON
The Aquatics Centre features a 50m competition pool, a 25m competition diving pool, a 50m warm-up pool and a ‘dry’ warm-up area for divers. After the Olympics, the Aquatics Centre has been transformed into a facility for the local community, clubs and schools as well as elite swimmers. A crèche, family-friendly changing facilities, café and a new public plaza will also be built.
BMX TRACK, OLYMPIC PARK, STRATFORD, LONDON
Located right next to the Velodrome in the north of the Olympic Park, the BMX Track covers an area of 160m by 90m - slightly larger than a football pitch. The track starts on a 8-metre-high ramp, followed by jumps, bumps and tightly banked corners. After the Games, the BMX Track is reconfigured to make it suitable for riders of all abilities. The BMX Track and Velodrome will be linked by a new road cycle circuit and mountain bike course to create Lee Valley VeloPark, combining cycling facilities across all disciplines in one cycling ‘hub’.
LEE VALLEY VELOPARK, STRATFORD, LONDON
Arguably set to be the best cycling centre in the world, Lee Valley VeloPark will become one of the lasting legacies of London 2012. The combination of four cycling disciplines in one venue – particularly with BMX included – created a unique asset for London. The breathtaking Velodrome is the centrepiece for the top track cycling events. Cafes, cycle hire and workshop facilities will also be in the mix. So whether you’re a world class cyclist, an amateur enthusiast, a community group or someone who likes to potter around getting some gentle exercise, Lee Valley VeloPark is a major day out.
COPPER BOX, OLYMPIC PARK, STRATFORD, LONDON
The Copper Box hosted some of the most exciting indoor sports competitions during the London 2012 Olympics including boxing, handball and badminton. Copper Box features state of the art innovations including a roof fitted with 88 light pipes that allow natural light into the venue, reducing the demand for electric lights by 40% annually. After the Games, the Copper Box becomes a multi-functional sports centre for community use, athlete training and events. Its flexible design and retractable seating will make it suitable for activities ranging from international competition to community sports, and for a wide range of indoor sports. A health and fitness club with changing facilities and café are also planned.
OLYMPIC STADIUM, OLYMPIC PARK, STRATFORD, LONDON
The Stadium is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate a number of different requirements and capacities in legacy. While the future function of the venue is still to be confirmed, it is sure to retain its place in the hearts of millions of Brits that fell in love with its dazzling light effects, epic firework displays and groundbreaking opening, closing and medal ceremonies.
LEE VALLEY HOCKEY CENTRE, STRATFORD, LONDON
Expect plenty of action and activity as local London hockey clubs plan to make the most out of the world class Centre for training and matches. A major part of the centre's vision is to offer easy access to this fast growing sport for all.
ARCELORMITTAL ORBIT, OLYMPIC PARK, LONDON
The ArcelorMital Orbit is the artistic structure commemorating the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This monumental £22.7 million structure will be used as a visitor attraction after the Games and is aimed to bring an influx of tourism to the future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. http://www.arcelormittalorbit.com/
WESTFIELD STRADFORD CITY, STRATFORD, LONDON
As the gateway to London's Olympic Park, Westfield Stratford City is part of one of the largest urban regeneration projects ever undertaken in England. Stratford is set to develop into one of London's top visitor and leisure destinations. From an economic point of view, the 1.4bn shopping centre has also created some 9,000 job opportunities. http://uk.westfield.com/stratfordcity/
LEE VALLEY WHITE WATER CENTRE, WALTHAM CROSS, HERTFORDSHIRE
The purpose-built water courses and facilities at Lee Valley White Water Centre will remain, with the venue continuing to provide a world-class canoeing and kayaking facility for people of all levels of ability, and a major leisure attraction for white water rafting. The venue is now owned, funded and managed by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. The 2015 Canoe Slalom World Championships will be held at the Lee Valley White Water Centre. Anyone can book a session or go along to watch at the spectacular riverside centre.
WEYMOUTH BAY & PORTLAND HARBOUR, WEYMOUTH, DORSET
Dorset’s Weymouth and Portland provides some of the best natural sailing waters in England. Improvements to the world-class facilities at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) include a new permanent 250m slipway used for launching and landing boats and 70 new moorings. A new commercial 560-berth marina has also been built. Also, soaring above Weymouth - the new Weymouth SeaLife Tower provides up to 69 passengers at a time with stunning panoramic views of the Jurassic coastline and out over Weymouth Bay, Chesil Beach and Portland. Turning through a full 360 degrees and climbing to over 170 feet above sea level this is one of the south coast's most exciting new attractions. http://www.wpnsa.org.uk/
HADLEIGH FARM AND COUNTRY PARK, ESSEX
Essex County Council is currently seeking planning permission to provide new trails and visitor facilities on land at Hadleigh Country Park which is owned by the most unlikely landlord, the Salvation Army. At the heart of the proposals are plans to improve and enhance the network of existing paths and trails for walkers, cyclists, mountain biking, runners and horse riders. The trail network will include the adapted Olympic Mountain Bike course. New walking trails with interpretation panels, enhanced horse riding trails and cross-country running trails, within the Country Park will also be provided. http://www.hadleighcountrypark.co.uk/olympic-games/
For sport-inspired weekend breaks and travel tips, visit http://www.visitengland.com/ee/Places-to-visit/Short-break-itineraries