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The London Olympics site 10 years on

Anish Kapoor’s big red tower remains a spectacular eyesore, but 10 years on from the 2012 Games, the old railway lands of Stratford are a largely thriving new urban district that few other host cities can rival

The view of the Queen Elizabeth Park and Aquatics Centre from the rooftop of UCL’s new East campus
The view of the Queen Elizabeth Park and Aquatics Centre from the rooftop of UCL’s new East campus | Photograph © Jill Mead for the Guardian

"What have the Olympics ever done for us? Nothing, apart from the 226-hectare park that attracts six million visitors a year, the magnificent sporting facilities, the tens of thousands of new jobs, the decontamination and opening up of ex-industrial land, the schools, the cultural institutions currently under construction, the new homes, some of which are affordable in a meaningful sense. Not to mention the national feelgood factor while the games lasted, and a more enduring raising of the profile and pride of its location. “We suddenly felt we were part of the story,” says Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for the nearby constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow. “If you came from east London, if you came from different backgrounds, you felt part of it.”

Apart from that, nothing.

Ever since the 2012 London Olympic bid was launched early in the century, there has been understandable scepticism – that it wouldn’t live up to its promises, that it would trample on local interests and character, that it would be taken over by corporate interests. Some of this has been justified: hopes to “inspire a generation” with a national sporting renaissance, for example, have largely foundered.

But if you now visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, 10 years after the games were held there, you will see a beautiful and largely well maintained landscape that skilfully exploits the web of waterways and the changes of levels previously on the site. It runs a pleasing range, from shaggy meadows and wetlands to more kempt lawns and terraces. You will see large numbers of people enjoying it who have reached it from all directions. The atmosphere is relaxed, welcoming, inclusive, mutually tolerant." - The Guardian

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