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

London 2012 just got better – it’s the Paralympics!

London’s very special Summer Like No Other continues to amaze even the most jaded   Londoners who are used to incredible stuff happening all the time in our great capital city. After the Diamond Jubilee, Olympic Games and Notting Hill Carnival, now we have the Paralympic Games!

We’ve had another emotional torch relay before the Games themselves set up camp in east London and brought the Olympic Park alive again with thousands of enthusiastic fans rushing in to see wonderful sporting events.

I was lucky enough to catch the torch relay at Lords Cricket ground and see several people take their turn at carrying the famous flame.  The considerable support was very moving as people were running alongside the route to watch as many carriers as they could.

My next Paralympics moment was in Trafalgar Square where the big screen is attracting huge and vociferous crowds who cannot get to the Olympic venues to see the sport in person. Tickets are very hard to get hold of, especially for events in the Olympic park so the screens are a great alternative.  I had another reason to visit Trafalgar Square as my sister is a Paralympic Ambassador, helping people find their way around London and a great job she is doing there.  As were walking around the Square Team GB won a cycling gold medal so the excitement levels went through the roof – if there had been one!

I was lucky enough to have tickets for the Olympic Park and the Olympic Stadium itself so we set out to Stratford full of expectation and excitement. Settling into our seats at the stadium, found ourselves just next to the wonderful Thomas Heatherwick Olympic cauldron. There was so much happening that it was hard to keep up with all the different sports going on, often several at the same time and with very short breaks between starts. We saw 100 metres heats men and women, 1500 heats, shot put, discus, javelin, 400 metres heats men and women and long jump, all in one morning!  Our Team GB heroes delivered us a silver medal in the womens’  long jump and a brilliant gold in the men’s discus! 

Stef Reid goes for silver for Team GB

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Aled Davies proud gold medal winner for Team GB and Wales!

We really smiled at the remote controlled Minis used to collect the javelins! What a great job for those 2 in the ponchos to have at the Paralympics.

To complete our day we wandered around the wonderful Olympic Park to the basketball arena to watch a closely fought game between Canada and Germany. It’s a rough sport with incredible skill levels and the crowd are encouraged to the make the venue vibrate with noise so it’s a great place to experience the Paralympics!

I’m following the rest of the Paralympic events on TV and there are plenty more top class sport to enjoy in the next week. 

Bye for now

Visiting London 2012’s Olympic Park

Visiting the Olympic Park is an exciting experience whatever you go there for. I’ve been out there a couple of times, once for the technical rehearsal which was in my blog on 24th July when I couldn’t spoil the surprise by telling you anything about the show!  My second trip was this week when we had day passes and although we didn’t have any event tickets, we had time to explore and enjoy the whole park. 

Arriving for the technical rehearsal was a special experience and the excitement level of the crowd of specially invited volunteers and others connected with the Opening Ceremony, was so high you could light up the stadium with it! Being there to see the show was a once in a lifetime moment. We didn’t have the videos so Mr Bean and James Bond’s appearances were a surprise as was arrival of David Beckham and the beautiful lighting of the cauldron in the full show.  To be in the stadium to see the transformation from the countryside to the industrial scene with massively loud, driving drums was breath-taking. The gasps when the chimneys came out of nowhere and the intricate choreography of thousands of people weaving round each other was extraordinary to see. The wildly energetic dancing to a run down of so much stand out British music was great fun and I could see everything as the views in the stadium from my top seat were splendid, and I saw quite a few bits that didn’t make the TV. The scope of what was going on in front of us was immense and there was something happening in every inch of the stadium floor and in the sky and in the stands from the lights that were in front of each seat.  I’ll never forget it and it was made extra special by knowing a good friend was actually performing!

A few photos to take you back to the greatest show on earth:

The bell that starts it all going – rung by Bradley Wiggins

Yours truly in the stadium
The countryside with farm animals

Jaw dropping scenes as the countryside becomes industial

The Olympic rings are forged

The NHS section – kids trampolining!

Lyrics racing around the stands from our seat lights

Music and lights – full on!

Tribute to Tim Berners-Lee – father of the internet

Orbit by night – with a blimp

It took me a few days to recover but I was keen to return to the Olympic Park and we managed to bag day tickets which gave us entry to the Park but not to any venues – a bargain at just £10!  We had the usual weather for summer 2012: sun, rain, cloud then blue sky and then all over again….  The park is huge and it took us ages to wander around, checking out the venues but also the amazing amount of lovely flowers, all planted by volunteers to come to their peak right now. There is plenty of catering and seats but little cover – we, of course, found the undercover champagne section so dodged the rain!  The big screens are good and clear and we watched in a state of nail biting tension as Zara and her team mates jumped for Olympic glory –  the gasps and oohs and aahs gave the moment a special feel.  We loved being there and in the end it didn’t matter though a ticket to see live sport would have been the icing on the cake.

Here are some photos to show you the amazing park:

Riverbank – hockey stadium
The elegant Aquatic Centre

The imposing Copper Box venue, busy with handball

Zara jumping on the big screen
The Velodrome – there may be GB gold in here!

Crowds watching with the Aquatic Centre behind and Orbit

Very appropriate art work!

Velodrome, BMX site and basketball venue

The park is flowery and landscaped

The wonderful stadium

We know how to have fun in the rain!

Fingers crossed for Team GB and to all other teams competing from every corner of the planet.

Bye for now,