The dramatic site of the 2012 London Olympics, Olympic Park has been taking a break since the close of the games but plans are well under way to transform the space into the ‘Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’. Set to become East London’s biggest public park, equipped with event stages, children’s playgrounds and 35km of walkways and cycle routes, the idyllic parklands will be back on the tourist itinerary in July 2013, as the North Park reopens its gates. The remainder of the 560-acre (230-hectare) park, including hockey and tennis facilities, The South Plaza and stadium, the aquatic center and the Orbit, will be open by Easter of 2014.
Along with its post-Olympics revamp, the park will still keep many of the art installations, waterways and artist-designed bridges that made it so popular during the games. Here’s just a few things to look out for when the park reopens.
Monica Bonvicini’s nine-meter high mirrored letters forming the word ‘RUN’ are among the park’s most striking and largest artworks. Commissioned especially for the games, the glass and stainless steel letters are lit up at night with internal LED lighting.
2) History Trees
British artists Ackroyd and Harvey planted ten large trees – reaching up to 18 meters tall – that mark the entrances to the 500-acre Olympic Park. Each tree features a large ring with words and phrases reflecting the area’s local history engraved into them, which will eventually fuse with the trees as they grow.
3) Fantastic Factology
A series of plaques on benches distributed throughout the park featuring facts submitted via a website or gathered through a series of local workshops. Knowledge was gained from the broad experience of the local community and global specialists from a variety of fields.
4) Steles (Waterworks)
Looking like nautical way-markers, and made from the same durable materials used for navigational buoys, these colorful artworks lining the Waterworks River will be used for boat moorings.
5) Poetry: Winning Words
A number of specially commissioned poems can be found dotted around the park, paying homage to the history of the site. Look out for The Spark Catchers by Lemm Sissay about the Bryant and May match factory which still exists on the edge of the park in Bow, and The Fun Palace by Caroline Bird about a proposed Fun Palace for the site in the 1960s, which was never built but is still a local legend.
The bridges crisscrossing the waterways are also art sites. One Whirl, using different types of recycled glass on one of the central bridges is inspired by the energy of the Games and the flow of the rivers that run through it. Fast, Faster, Fastest is an interactive bridge leading to the Olympic Stadium, lit up during the games but after the games it will be programmed so that the lights flash at the speed of the fastest 100-meter sprints, allowing you to race against the speed of your sporting heroes.