The Games might be over but there’s still plenty going on in the Olympic Park.
Free bus tours began this week, offering a great chance to witness the park’s £292 million transformation into a new cultural hub and green space for London, before it reopens in phases from summer 2013. Here are some top things to spot on the trip:
1. Dismantling the Venues
The park is currently a huge construction site – or, more correctly, a deconstruction site. The world’s largest McDonald’s has been dismantled, as has the Riverbank Arena where Olympic hockey was played. On the bus tours you’ll be able to spot temporary venues being removed as well as athletes’ training centres, security areas and temporary seating stands or “wings” being taken to pieces.
2. South Park Plaza
The area around the distinctive red ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture is being transformed into an urban park the size of 16 football pitches. When it’s finished, the new South Park Plaza will boast fountains, a climbing wall, a 12-metre wide tree-lined boulevard and “garden rooms” created by planting designer Piet Oudolf. During the Games, this space was the first part of the park most visitors saw after entering through the Stratford entrance.
3. Planting the Park
It was already a park to begin with, but over the next year or so the amount of open space in the Park will be doubled to a whopping 252 acres. The planting project includes 4,300 semi-mature trees, over 100,000 new shrubs and almost one million bulbs, which will all be watered by a park-wide water system. Even today the park has plenty of wildlife – you could see swans, ducks, cormorants and coots.
4. The First Neighbourhood
The Basketball Arena is one of the largest temporary Olympic venues ever built, and will be deconstructed between now and next autumn. The entire building can be recycled – from the seating to the floor – and some parts will head over to Brazil to be used at the Rio 2016 Games. Once the area is cleared it will be the site for the first new housing neighbourhood in the park, Chobham Manor.
5. The Stadium
Of course, no trip to the park would be complete without a glimpse of the iconic Olympic Stadium where athletes like Usain Bolt sped to victory this summer.
Tours run on Wednesdays, Thursdays and some weekends, until the Park begins to open in phases from July 2013. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 023 2030.