It cost £9 billion to bring the Olympic Games to Stratford, and despite years of public apprehension, London’s reaction was unanimous and emphatic: it was so worth it.
With the Games long since over and the Olympic site in full-on Legacy Mode, we thought it was high time we took a closer look at how those Olympic millions have turned one of London’s most deprived areas into a shiny new postcode to be proud of.
Drag the slider handles from side to side to compare old and new, and share your favourite Stratford memories in the comments box below.
'Fridge Mountain', 2006
In pre-Olympic times, Stratford’s 20-foot tall ‘Fridge Mountain’ was one of the area’s most iconic eyesores. Believed to be the biggest collection of discarded white goods in Europe, the pile was the first thing to be shifted when the clean-up started. There’s now an entirely different white beast in its place – the Olympic stadium.
Waterworks River, 2005
You’d probably still think twice about taking a swim in them, but Startford’s waterways have benefited hugely from Olympic regeneration. The multi-coloured sticky-up crayon things are still a mystery to us, but they’re certainly far easier on the eye than old car tyres and rusty bike corpses.
Stratford town centre, 2004
Got an unspeakably ugly 1970s shopping centre you need to hide away from millions upon millions of eyeballs? Easy – simply rebuild the front bit, update the signs and chuck up some shimmery petal things. The town’s original retail hub may still be Westfield’s ugly sister, but a superficial makeover means these days it’s seducing more shoppers than ever.
Carpenter's Road Lock, 2005
Causing Games crowds to bottleneck as they glimpsed themselves in its reflective panels, the mirrored bridge remains one of the park’s most creative and striking features. Consider how dowdy and derelict the same spot was in pre-Olympic times and it becomes an even more remarkable feat of engineering.
It may not have had the world’s greatest athletes spraying each other with champagne, but Stratford in the 1970s did have Bobby Moore getting pissed on the high street with his ball-kicking mates. The West Ham and England defender enjoyed a stint as the owner of the Black Bull pub, which he renamed ‘Mooro’s’. It wasn’t all lager tops and football chants for Bobby and the lads, though – business took a blow when the pub caught fire the day before it was due to launch under Moore’s landlord-ship.
The Greenway, 2002
Back in the first years of the twenty-first century, getting rid of an unwanted vehicle in east London was a snap: simply joyride over to Stratford and park your ill-gotten wheels by the Stratford Marsh end of the Greenway, then set it on fire and run away. Try it today and you’ll run into a spot of bother – half the area’s a building site and the rest has been pedestrianised.
Log Cabin pub, 2005
After two and a half centuries as the Yorkshire Grey, this former pub on Stratford High Street lasted just five years after it became the Log Cabin in 2000. With the Olympic bid in the bag, developers seized the opportunity and it became The Westbridge, a four-star boutique hotel. Looks fancy, but don't expect a jar of pickled eggs behind the bar.
Stratford Marsh, 2006
Stratford’s Zaha Hadid-designed aquatics centre was one of last summer’s biggest architectural talking points, and now that the protruding grandstands have been removed and sold, the whale-like structure looks more impressive than ever. Fancy taking a dip in the pool where Michael Phelps bagged four gold medals last summer? Afraid you’ll have to wait – the post-Games refit isn’t slated to finish until mid-2014.
Olympic Park, 2012
During the Games fortnight, the Olympic Park saw as many as 370,000 visitors pass through its brightly coloured walkways each day. A year on, the contrast is striking – several of the Games venues (including the waterpolo and basketball venues, as well as the Riverbank Arena, seen at the top of the image above) have been removed and the face paint and flags replaced by hard hats and fluorescent jackets. It’ll be this way for another year, too, with repurposing works set to continue well into 2014.