In this two part series, Crave Online explores the new neighborhood growing out of the one time home for the 2012 London Olympics.
In Part Two, we look at the new attractions now filling the fledgling neighborhood, the East Village near Stratford.
What was once a rubbish tip is now one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the UK and a future travel destination for activity minded tourists.
The Stratford area of London was once a working class neighborhood surrounded by industrial parks, warehouses and a sizable garbage dump. Now, one massive Summer Olympics later, it’s the home of East Village – one of the youngest and trendiest neighborhoods in Europe.
Apartments originally built to house international athletes have now been converted into apartments and condos. The largest mall in Europe (Westfield Stratford City) stands on end of the park, while a massive stadium on the other end waits to host the Rugby World Cup before becoming the home pitch for the Hammers of West Ham United.
The Westfield Mall holds more than 300 stores and plays home to the very guy-friendly Café Football. Backed by Manchester United football stars Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, the cafe serves updated takes on classic pub faire – with a little American flair thrown in here and there. Head chef Brendan Fyldes worked in consultation on the menu with the two Michelin-starred chef Michael Wignall.
Tourists and residents alike can visit the award-winning Velopark and watch future Olympians train. Then, for a few pounds, they can rent their own bikes and ride around miles of street and mountain-simulated paths around the park.
The Aquatics Centre, designed by world famous architect Zaha Hadid, is now open to the public and travelers looking to splash about in one of the most gorgeous swimming pools in the world. For a fee, visitors can enjoy water polo, synchronized swimming, diving, triathlon and sub aqua activities.
Nearby, the River Lee winds its way around the western end of the Olympic Park. Its water hosted the rowing events during the games and are now home to canal boat homes and water taxis. The river represents one of the greatest environmental feats of the Games’ preparation as crews pulled more than 50 cards and thousands of tires out of its waters during an extensive cleanup.
Of course, other neighborhoods in need of a quick turnaround to draw in tourists and locals can’t really look to Stratford because it’s not like every borough can snag an Olympics and billions of dollars or pounds to change its nature in only a few years’ time.
But, the way East London reinvented itself – with an eye to area citizens looking for a new part of town, for travelers looking to snag an echo of the Olympic Sprit and for an area environment that desperately needed cleaning – can offer a blueprint for other Olympic venues to follow step by step. While former venues in Olympic ghost towns in China and other countries go unused and ignored, Stratford used the Games to vault itself into a new reality.