Olympic Park reopens as 'a new heart for east London'

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The grand reopening of the Olympic Park where the London 2012 Games were held is due to take place on April 5.

As final touches are made to the park, London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) chief executive Dennis Hone pledges the 18-month revamp of the 560 acre site has built a "new heart for east London". Source: PA

Hoards of curious sports fans and members of the public are expected to descend for the opening weekend.

The newly-landscaped southern section of the venue in Stratford, east London, will reopen from 10am along with the £22.3 million ArcelorMittal Orbit tower but the showpiece Olympic Stadium will remain off limits until August 2016.

Organisers are pinning their hopes that it will have the feel of London's Southbank, famed as a cultural hub, but with more open green spaces sports venues.

The LLDC have turned to James Corner Field Operations, who created New York's High Line, an elevated freight rail line that was turned into a public park on Manhattan's West Side, to design the south park.

The stadium, which will be the new home for West Ham United, is not set to open until August 2016 although it will host five matches during next year's Rugby World Cup.

On April 5 a stretch of landscaping of the newly-named Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park spanning from the south of the main entrance by the aquatics centre, past the twisting 114.5m (375ft) ArcelorMittal Orbit tower towards the northern tip of the site up to the velopark opens to the public.

A new tree-lined promenade with 100 trees strung with a unique globe lighting system, an interactive water fountains, an action packed adventure playground, four themed walking trails explore the key sights of the London 2012 Games, the Park's biodiversity, family fun on the Park and arts and culture are among its features.

Tickets for the Orbit, designed to be a tourist attraction and look-out point, will cost £15 for adults, £7 for children and £40 for a family of four.

The structure, complete with its two viewing platforms at 76 and 80m high, offers the chance to see over 20 miles across London.

"In the 18 months since the end of the Paralympics, we have created a magnificent new park for London with beautiful parklands and waterways and world-class sporting facilities. We want people to come and enjoy this new destination, whether they are reliving the memories of the golden summer of 2012 or experiencing it for the first time," according to Mr Hone.

"The opening of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is not the end of the transformation story. We are building a new heart of east London creating jobs, building new homes, and bringing in investment, culture and education with partners like the Victoria and Albert Museum and University College London. It is a truly exciting time for all Londoners and we encourage people to come and see Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for themselves."

A parade involving 250 East End children, an aerial acrobats show at the Orbit plus choirs, bands, dancers, poets, circus performers and story tellers throughout the south of the Park will help mark the opening. Try-out sessions for a range of sports and fitness events plus Visits from the East London Mobile workshop arts and crafts bus and the Bikeworks team have also been laid on.

Describing the opening as "an historic chapter in London's post-Olympic story," London mayor Boris Johnson said: "Our city's newest park is crammed with spectacular attractions and activities set in acres of stunning green spaces.

"This is now a must-see destination for Londoners and visitors alike and forms a glittering centrepiece for our ambitious regeneration plans in Stratford and beyond."

The site has been reopening in stages since the London 2012 Games ended with large scale events - such as concerts and last year's Sainsbury's Anniversary Games - being staged while the area underwent its makeover from a sporting venue to community use.

More than 100,000 visitors have been to the Copper Box Arena, a London 2012 venue in the north of the site, which was the first reopened in July 2012.

Over 55,000 visitors, have been to the Aquatics Centre since it opened its doors for the first time since the Games on March 1. The Lee Valley VeloPark, which has been designed as a home to road, track, BMX and mountain, biking, opened for public use for the first time on March 31.

The centre has two 50m pools, a diving pool and a newly installed gym. It will host the 2014 Fina/NVC Diving World Series and in 2016 the European Swimming Championships in April.

Along with the velopark, the other big sporting venue in the north of park is the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. It has been earmarked for a June launch.

The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre will boast four indoor and six outdoor tennis courts and, according to organisers, two of the best hockey pitches in the country. These can be used by both the local community and elite players in international tournaments such as the Investec London Cup 2014, the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters 2014-2016 and the European Hockey Championships 2015.

Work has already begun to turn the stadium in to a multi-use venue. It is to be West Ham's new home from 2016 and the new national competition stadium for athletics in the UK which will host the 2017 IAAF World Championships and 2017 IPC World Athletics Championships.

The land towards the waterfront between the stadium and Stratford station has been earmarked for an arts and cultural centre, with the help of University College London and Victoria and Albert Museum, with the promise of another possible 10,000 jobs.

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