This time two year ago, Londoners were panicking with excitement (or disappearing out of the country on holiday). My beloved adopted city was gearing up for the spectacle of the Olympics & the world watching how our venues and transport coped with the international onslaught of visitors. Was it going to be a train wreck – that is if us commuters were even able to get onto the trains – or a spectacular success?
Luckily it was utterly fantastic. The streets overran with an unusual level of British pride – union jacks hanging from every second lamp post (even Nelson had his), the rest resplendent with Olympic rings – competitive spirits were high and the joy of getting to watch so many world-class athletes give it their all was awe-inspiring. (Oh, and commuting was an absolute dream).
We were extraordinarily lucky to get diving tickets via the balloting system, cheer my fellow Kiwis on at the infamous Kiwi House (let’s not mention that BBQ/incident/thing) and experience the euphoric atmosphere that permeated everything. Slightly more subdued, but no less exciting were the Paralympics. And who could have thought that athletes such as Ussain Bolt, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Oscar Pistorius and Tom Daly to name but a few, could be escalated to almost rockstar status for the next six months. What an experience.
Two years on, many exclamations of “oh, we must have a look at the Olympic Park” and a cross London Sofa search, finding ourselves with a spare hour or two in Stratford we decided a stroll to the Olympic Park was far overdue. Now free for the public to enter and wander around, families buzz through the landscaped attractions and there are huge plans afoot for the structures punctuating the horizons.
Couples picnic on the banks of the canal in amongst wild flowers, gossiping teens recline in ginormous sunbeds and elderly people stroll arm in arm through the sweet gardens. Kids monkey up a huge climbing wall, run pell-mell through fountains, scrape the skating bowl and swim through Olympic pools.
We wandered the circumference of the main stadium, walking down memory lane, taking our time to peruse the changes and enjoy the sunshine before we ended up near the canals again, turning tail for home. We’re going to need a planned return trip – Mr Kiwi is especially keen to practice his
bombing diving technique and compare it to those who we watch in the Olympic Diving.
What strikes me is the stark contrasts of the East End – crumbling quayside Victorian factories flanked with shining pillars of sky scrapers – all glimpsed from our meander.
The anorak in me couldn’t resist a touch of tube geekery – these DLR cycle racks. If you’re going to make something fuctional, why not make it fun as well?