A fun day out on the Olympic Park art tour

The Olympic Park in east London is really called the Queen Elizabeth Park as the area moves on from the Olympics  but I’m sure most people, including me,  will carry on calling it the Olympic Park as it holds such happy memories of the London Games of 2012. 

Most of the park is now open to the public and many of the iconic buildings remain:  the Aquatic Centre,without its extra wings which were added on to seat the thousands of fans of swimming and diving:, the twisting Orbit sculpture; the curving velodrome; the block of the Copper Box;  and, the famous athletics stadium, although they have taken down the pyramid shaped lighting gantries which went all around it so it looks a little naked now to my eye. 

There is so much to see and do at the park, especially on a lovely sunny day such as we enjoyed. To add to the fun they have set up various self guided tours so we picked up ‘Art in the Park – A Field Guide’, a comprehensive information booklet, and off we went.  We soon realised there are too many art works to see if you are also after a leisurely stroll and chat but we enjoyed the ones we saw and have saved many for our next visit. 

So, here are my highlights with a couple of extras which are not strictly art things but I loved them so have thrown them in!

1. Steles by Keith Wilson

This work consists of 35 colourful posts which look like crayons to me and they line the river in a carefully planned colour sequence. They are both an art work and mooring posts tho’ I’m not sure you can just rock up on your boat and stay in the middle of the park!

You’ll have spotted the extra ordinary shape of the Aquatic Centre in this photo. It is now open to the public so you can swim in the Olympic pool and dream of winning a medal!

 Here’s a view of the inside of the aquatic centre with its impressive pool – I was almost tempted to get in, even as a non swimmer!

2. Carpenter’s Curve by Clare Woods

This is one of two artworks by Clare which wrap around exteriors and make utility buildings disappear from sight. Clare created these huge works as paintings which were then transferred onto individual tiles which you can see these clearly in the photo. Apparently it is the most complex tile mural in the world!

3. Arcelormittal Orbit by Sir Anish Kapoor, Cecil Balmond

One of my favourites, Orbit can be seen from afar, even from the plane as you fly into London and is the UK’s tallest sculpture. It’s made of recycled steel and offers a great viewing platform up at 114 metres where Anish Kapoor’s mirrors turn London upside down. It’s worth going up the top but be warned, there are over 500 steps down so think carefully before you decide to walk – I didn’t!

 4. Run by Monica Bonvicini

I remember this one really catching my eye during the Games and it felt so right with the  events that were going on all around it. Now it still impresses and I’d love to see it at night when the letters glow with lines of internal LED lighting. 

These next photos show one of the most iconic symbols of London and although they don’t seem to be part of the art tour, I though they merited inclusion in my highlights. The phone boxes appear normal from a distance but are playing with that view as they are only part boxes,so you just have 2 sides of the box and they have poetry carved into the windows.


While I’m mentioning areas I liked that are not on the art tour, I have to mention the fun fountains curved like a snake. They start off very low and entice people to walk around and over them and then suddenly spurt up at least 5 feet into the air to shrieks of laughter from everyone caught out –  who then go back for more! Here’s the before and after photos:

5. Pixel Wall by Tomato

There are over 2000 wooden cubes on this wall and as you pass by you can run your hands over them making a new pattern for the wall as the light and dark surfaces are changed around. If I’d had more time I would have been tempted to leave a message in pixels but instead just left them with a new pattern.  

6. Fantastic Factology by Klassnick Corporation, Riitta Ikonen, We Made That 

All around the park fascinating facts are tucked away on park benches, from information about the park and nature to more personal recollections which make you think about the history of the area and its people. As it was such a sunny day I chose this one which tells us the sun is on average 93 million miles from this bench!

A quick mention for the climbing wall as we pass by as it was really well used by young and older folk and looked great fun!

7. The Spark Catchers by Lemn Sissay

I loved the use of this wooden box carved with an emotive poem called the Spark Catchers to cover an electricity transformer and the juxtaposition of the danger triangle sign and the title of the poem. The poem references the first strike at the nearby Bryant and May match factory, giving us more plays on words. The strike was lead by the women, many younger than 16, who were protesting against appalling conditions leading to injury and illness and was a major event in our industrial and women’s history. 

In total there are 26 different art works to enjoy on the art trail and I’ve only covered 6 (with a few extras not officially on the tour) so I’ll definitely have to go back to check out some of the missing group. Why not have a go yourself and see how many you can find?

Bye for now,

Sneaky peek into London 2012’s Aquatic Centre!

The wonderful Olympic Park in London is closed at the moment as it is being transformed into a public park with amazing sporting facilities. This is due to open next year, a year to the day after the opening ceremony – remember that uplifting, bonkers, inspiring show from Danny Boyle? Of course you do!  

However, I was lucky enough to sneak into the park for a tour of the Aquatic Centre, scene of so many brilliant performances, not least from our own Ellie Simmonds. The venue is also building site as they are removing the additional seating which was in 2 ‘wings’ on the side of the whale shaped aquatic centre to house the extra thousands who wanted to see the Olympics and Paralympics.  You can see from the first photo one of the wings facing you and the pool emerging on the right – and the Olympic stadium beyond on the right. 

Aquatic Centre

We started our visit at the practice pool which has the very top end of swimming pool technology as does the whole venue. The pool is heated to 26 degrees and the outside air would be 27degrees. The floor can be raised and lowered to achieve the ideal depth for athletes and the boom you can see in the pool can be moved so that it can form one or two pools. The public will be able to come in for a swim next year and the pool will be split into a children’s and adults’ pool.

Practice pool

 We wandered through all the corridors and machinery rooms, admiring the filtration plant where the water is completely cleaned through massive tanks of sand every 4 hours. The areas behind the scenes are spotless and a real insight into the pride taken into the venue by all those who work there.

Filtration tanks

 A couple of side windows gave us a really unusual underwater views into the pools. Apparently these were used by the BBC to get their great footage of the swimmers powering through from below.


 Before we got to see the main event – the competition pool – there was a photo exhibition showing the stages of building this marvel. This photo shows how they put the roof on first and then dug and filled the pool before putting on the sides. This was one of the first buildings in the Olympic Park to be completed, well ahead of the Games themselves.

Still some way to go!

 I was so excited to see the competition pool as I didn’t managed to bag any tickets during the Games themselves but watched it all on the TV and as we walked in through the door the swimmers emerged from I could imagine the roar of the crowd and only just stopped myself from giving a wave! The pool is beautiful and very big, especially in the eyes of a non swimmer!  Behind the pool in the photo you can see the rows of yellow seating  which are being dismantled and taken away. The new wall will fit into the slot in the roof as it was designed to be amended post Games and will emerge as its intended whale like form and be a most beautiful shape emerging from the park.

The competition pool

 We all loved seeing the many ‘no swimming’ signs, aimed at the staff who are no doubt tempted to dive in.

The best swimming pool sign!

 I stood right by the podium where the swimmers hold themselves ready for the start and could only imagine the tension and the excitement as they look ahead down the lane and wait for the gun.

Marks, get set, GO!

 We turned round and saw the looming dive boards including the 10 metre one which is incredibly tall and impressive. I can still see Tom Daley waiting for his second attempt at the  dive he retook and have even more admiration for him now – the lower boards looked quite high enough!  They are beautifully made, curving concrete over a pool which has a special water fountain in it in case a diver gets into trouble, they will be pushed up by the water. More hi tech thinking in this top venue

The diving boards – soooo high!

I’ll be back on my Christmas theme in my next blog but couldn’t resist this one.
Bye for now