After six years of planning, preparation and construction, London's Olympic Park is almost ready to host its first non-athlete visitors. The £7 billion Olympic Park contains several of the 2012 Games' biggest sporting venues, including the Olympic Stadium and the Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre, as well as the Olympic Village. And towering over the Olympic Park is Anish Kapoor's controversial ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower, which is made from recycled steel and has received mixed reviews from observers. On Friday, the Opening Ceremony will mark the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and visitors will get their first look at the Olympic Park.
Hosting the Olympics is a massive undertaking for the host city. In 2006, London demolished more than 200 buildings to make room for what would eventually become the Olympic Park. When those buildings were demolished, an impressive 98 percent of the materials were reused and recycled in the construction of the Olympic Park and elsewhere. The Olympic Park was built on former industrial brownfields, which had to be cleaned up before the games. About 1.4 million cubic meters of contaminated soil was excavated from the site, and five enormous soil washing machines were brought in to wash the soil and filter out oil, tar and heavy metals.
In addition to the Aquatics Centre, the Olympic Park also includes the Wilkinson Eyre Architects-designed Basketball Arena, a large 12,000-seat temporary structure that will be taken apart and recycled once the games have ended. The other major indoor facility at the Olympic Park is the Copper Box, which will be used for handball and fencing.
After the 2012 Summer Olympics are over, the Olympic Park will again be transformed. In 2013, the roughly 500-acre Park in East London will reopen as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The 377-foot ArcelorMittal Orbit will still tower over the park, and the 80,000-seat Olympic stadium will be downsized to a permanent stadium that will seat 25,000 people.
Photos via London 2012