On a warm summer’s evening back in July 2012, almost 900 million people globally watched the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games 2012.
It thrust the British capital into the spotlight, with millions tuning in to watch world-class sport take place across London, and indeed England over a two week period.
But once the Olympic circus left town, and life went back to normal, what was left over, and what has become of the many venues?
There were over 25 venues set up to cover a whole host of sports, including hockey, athletics, tennis, rowing and equestrianism.
Many were temporary, set up and dismantled just for the Games, but others, including the Olympic Stadium, are permanent buildings designed to be a part of the Olympic legacy.
I take a closer look at what has happened to some of the most iconic venues of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Olympic Stadium
80,000 people watched and cheered on ‘Super Sunday’ as Mo Farah, Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford powered home to win golds in the Olympic Stadium.
As with most modern Olympic Games, the stadium is usually the centre point, home to athletics as well as opening and closing ceremonies.
I remember seeing the stadium for the first time. It’s huge – and dominates the skyline as you approach the Olympic Park from the tube station.
The park was packed with joyous and jubilant supporters from around the world, and the atmosphere inside was electrifying.
Located at the heart of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, there was a huge expectation for the sustainability of this stadium and it has been one of the biggest talking points since the last medal was handed out.
A look at it now in 2016, and it doesn’t look much different. But as promised, despite various degrees of controversy and discussions, the stadium is – and has – come back into use since 2012, hosting a variety of legacy competitions and events, and is now home to West Ham United Football Club.
Many of the events hosted here have been athletics meets or legacy competitions (including the anniversary games), attracting many of the world-class athletes who competed here back in 2012.
It was also one of the venues for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and will host the prestigious IAAF World Athletics championships in 2017.
Since August 2016, West Ham Football Club have taken over the stadium and is the primary tenant but i’m sure many people will be looking forward to the Athletics Championships being held here in 2017.
Other venues located on the Olympic Park site have remained in use and you can still visit them today, including the velodrome which is open to all who would like to improve their cycling. There’s also the BMX track for the more adventurous.
Copper Box Arena
This venue played host to handball and fencing during the Games.
It’s now the permanent home to London’s only professional basketball team, The London Lions, but you can also come here and watch world-class boxing, or play on one of the ten badminton courts on offer.
It hasn’t changed much externally but its ability to host a variety of sporting events makes it a really useful venue on the Olympic Park.
Designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid and coming in over budget ahead of the Games, the Aquatics Centre sits proudly opposite the stadium in the Olympic Park and has undergone some dramatic changes.
With it’s 2 50-meter pools and 25-meter diving pool, this venue has been available for general public use since 2014. It’s also the training ground for famous British diver Tom Daley.
Two large spectator wings have been removed (the building was designed before the Olympic bid was succcessful) leaving just the swooping roof and stunning structure which many describe as the icon of the Olympic venues.
Since 2012, the venue has been used for competitions and it’s currently being used by the 2016 Paralympics swimming team who are training ahead of the Rio Paralympic Games.
For any keen swimmers the main Olympic 50m pool is available for the public to use (all ten lanes) for fitness swimming with various paces.
An adult swim at the Aquatics Centre costs £4.95. Find out more information here: Swimming in the Olympic Park
One of the more unusual but probably the most striking of all the venues of the 2012 Olympics was Greenwich Park in South London which played host to the equestrian pursuits (show jumping, dressage, eventing) as well as parts of the modern pentathlon.
Sitting in the arena you had the perfect view of the London skyline, and during the Cross Country phase it was a wonderful chance to explore the park and catch glimpses of skyscrapers and other tall buildings in an event like no other at the Olympics.
In the run up to the games, the selection of Greenwich Park proved controversial, with many expressing concern about the fragile environment of the park being damaged by the arena and horses thundering through the park (along with all the spectators).
Post-2012 this concern was realised after the arena was removed and one main part of the park, Queen’s field, was turned into ‘a mud bath’ by the winter.
Lee Valley White Water Centre
Home to the Olympic Slalom white water canoe course, post 2012 and the course is still open for members of the public to enjoy – whether white water rafting or canoeing, as well as being a competition venue.
Opened in 2010, it was actually available to use before the start of the Olympic Games and has continued to be used afterwards.
The only major change made to the centre is the removal of the stands and the addition of new visitor facilities and offices.
Nowadays you can also learn to scuba dive and open water swim at the centre.
Dorney Lake (Eton Dorney)
An estimated 30,000 spectators cheered Anna Watkins and Heather Grainger to victory in the double sculls at Dorney Lake in Buckinghamshire – one of the most memorable moments of the 2012 Games.
Dorney Lake is a purpose-built and is owned by Eton College and has been in use since 2000, but went through a variety of changes in the 12 years before the Games.
It was used for the rowing regatta as well as canoeing sprints.
Nowadays it remains an all-round venue, used for rowing regattas, triathlons and running races throughout the year. It’s also used by walkers who enjoy the tranquil surroundings of the lake.
I have been fortunate enough to compete in 5 and 10k runs as well as my first Triathlon at Dorney Lake! Swimming in the lake itself felt very special, knowing that the Olympics had been held here and history had been made.
The Olympic legacy
So four years on, and what is the legacy that has been left behind?
It was hard not to get wrapped up in the Games’ spirit back in 2012, with millions watching in the UK and globally and the aim was not only to inspire a generation but to help turn them into future Olympians, too.
The Olympic Park is up and running and definitely open for business, but I still feel like it’s trying to find its feet.
Each of the venues on the site are available to the general public, but how long until people give up and forget the glory days of 2012 and the park eventually becomes a ghost town?
It’s hard to forget what the Olympic Games did for Britain’s spirit and for those two magical weeks it created a phenomena like no other.
It’s too early to say whether the London Spirit will continue to convert into more people playing sport and getting fit, but going by the results of the Rio Games, where Team GB finished second in the medal table and had it’s most successful foreign Olympics to date, the London spirit certainly seems to be well and truly alive.
Did you visit the Olympic Games in London? I’d love to hear if you went along and watched!