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London 2012: What has become of the Olympic venues ten years on from the Games?

Built at a cumulative cost of more than UK£1 billion, the Olympic venues were the site of some historic, record-breaking moments during London 2012. A decade on from the Games, SportsPro examines what has happened to those arenas in the time since – if indeed they are still in use today.

27 July 2022 SportsPro

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The ‘L’ word is never far away in the discourse around major events. But this month in particular has seen greater focus on the legacy left by the London 2012 Olympic Games, with Wednesday marking ten years since the mega event descended on the British capital.

Hosted at a cost of around UK£9 billion, the arrival of the Games brought with it promises to breathe fresh life into one of the most deprived areas of London, inspire millions of Britons to become more active, and to paint a picture of a creative, inclusive and welcoming nation. The four-hour, Danny Boyle-directed opening ceremony delivered a show of focused optimism and for three weeks the British public became fully swept up in that idea.

A decade on, however, the jury remains out on whether all of those goals – some of which will admittedly take longer to manifest themselves than others – have been delivered. A report published last month by The Guardian, for example, documented how much of the housing that has been built on the former Olympic site is not affordable for those it was supposedly intended to help from the outset.

But one thing London 2012 cannot be accused of is leaving behind the so-called ‘white elephants’ that have come to be associated with other Games such as Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016.

London 2012 made use of a mixture of newly built, existing and temporary venues, the majority of which were located in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London. Today, the athletes’ village, which hosted more than 10,000 Olympians, has been converted into a neighbourhood replete with shops, bars and restaurants, and which houses around 6,000 Londoners.

But what has become of the venues that will be remembered for moments such as Team GB’s ‘Super Saturday’, Michael Phelps’ record-breaking exploits in the pool, Sir Chris Hoy’s cycling dominance and Nicola Adams’ boxing gold?

To answer that question, SportsPro takes a closer look at what has happened to the major London 2012 Olympic venues in the time since the Games, what elite events have been hosted at them since, and what impact they are having on grassroots participation today.


London Stadium

Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Cost: UK£486 million
Capacity: 80,000
Opened: May 2012
Time to build: Two years, ten months
Events hosted: Athletics, opening and closing ceremonies

The centrepiece of London 2012, the Olympic Stadium is now best known as the home of Premier League soccer club West Ham United. It would prove to be a protracted, controversial saga that eventually led to the East Londoners becoming tenants in 2016.

The 99-year lease was eventually confirmed in March 2013, with West Ham seeing off legal challenges from fellow top-flight side Tottenham Hotspur and lower-league team Leyton Orient. The Hammers agreed to pay UK£15 million (US$18 million) towards the overall conversion of the stadium into a dual-use arena, plus a basic rent of UK£2.5 million (US$3 million) per year.

The amount needed to convert the Olympic Stadium – now known as London Stadium – from an athletics venue into a multi-purpose site soared to UK£323 million (US$386 million) in 2016, taking the overall cost of West Ham’s home to UK£752 million (US$898 million) – a bill largely footed by the taxpayer.

Lyn Garner, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, which partly owns the ground, claimed in 2018 that West Ham’s rent “does not cover the cost” of staging matches at the venue and that “a lack of commercialisation” means the organisation faces “losses for the next 97 years”.

Away from soccer, London Stadium serves as the home of UK Athletics and has hosted the 2017 World Athletics Championships, games at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, motorsport’s Race of Champions, the rugby league’s Four Nations, and the first Major League Baseball (MLB) fixtures to be played in Europe. The stadium also holds music concerts through the intervening months.

London’s Olympic Stadium, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies during the Games, is now the home of Premier League club West Ham United

Aquatics Centre

Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Cost: UK£242 million
Capacity: 2,500
Completed: June 2011
Time to build: Three years
Events hosted: Swimming, diving, synchronised swimming

Designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid, the Aquatics Centre has remained a well-utilised community leisure and fitness centre since playing host to the swimming and diving competitions ten years ago. Offering affordable swimming and diving sessions for families and a world-class training facility for elite athletes, the venue attracts around one million visitors annually.

Sport England invested UK£34 million (US$40 million) of National Lottery funding into the centre’s construction, including UK£5 million (US$6 million) that went towards the transformation of the venue before it opened to the public in March 2014. Since then, it has hosted several elite events in the form of the 2016 European Aquatics Championships, Super League Triathlon (SLT), and numerous other national and international competitions.


Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Cost: UK£105 million
Capacity: 6,000
Opened: February 2011
Time to build: Two years
Events hosted: Track cycling

Operated on behalf of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), owner of the Better brand of leisure centres and public sports facilities, the colloquially known ‘pringle’ now stands as the centrepiece of the Lee Valley VeloPark, a mixed-use facility that opened in April 2014 and which offers four Olympic cycling disciplines: track, BMX, road and mountain biking.

The first Olympic Park venue to be completed, the velodrome went on to host the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in 2016, before welcoming two rounds of the new UCI Track Champions League last year. Notably, the Lee Valley VeloPark will become the first venue to host Olympics, Paralympics, World Championships and Commonwealth Games competitions in the same sport when it stages track cycling events at Birmingham 2022.

Prior to the Games, it was estimated that the venue would attract 88,000 users a year. Precise figures are not available but operators say more than 11 million people have visited Lee Valley Regional Park Authority’s various venues, including the Lee Valley VeloPark, since they opened to the public.

The Velodrome, which proved to be a happy hunting ground for Team GB’s cyclists, remains the centrepiece of the Lee Valley VeloPark

Copper Box Arena

Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Cost: UK£44 million
Capacity: 7,500
Opened: May 2011
Time to build: One year, ten months
Events hosted: Handball, modern pentathlon

Originally known as the Handball Arena before adopting its Copper Box name ahead of the Olympics, the venue has since been adapted into a multi-sport space for athlete training, major events and community use.

The Copper Box was the first Olympic venue to open to the public on 27th July 2013, exactly one year on from the opening ceremony. Since London 2012, the arena has hosted more than 300 events, including British Basketball League (BBL) games, Netball Superleague fixtures, badminton’s London Grand Prix, Fed Cup tennis matches, the ITTF Team World Cup, the Invictus Games, and various esports competitions.

Among other boxing bouts, the Copper Box also staged the contest between YouTubers KSI and Joe Weller in 2018, a forerunner to future influencer matchups that have shaken up the fight game and seen broadcast giants such as Sky Sports, DAZN and Showtime get in on the act.

A 2019 Fed Cup playoff match is among several high-profile sporting events to be held at the Copper Box since London 2012

Basketball Arena

Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Cost: UK£43 million
Capacity: 12,000
Opened: August 2011
Time to build: One year, three months
Events hosted: Basketball, handball

The fourth biggest stadium in the Olympic Park, the Basketball Arena from London 2012 remains the largest temporary venue to be used for an Olympic Games. Despite being dismantled in the aftermath, the 12,000-seater was held up as somewhat of an example at a time when huge, costly venues were being abandoned by organisers soon after being part of a major event.

Designed by WilkinsonEyre and constructed in the space of just six weeks, the Basketball Arena’s eye-catching white facade that wrapped around its steel frame was made of recyclable PVC, which could then be reused in future temporary arenas or simply as raw material.

There was talk of the venue being packed up and shipped over to Brazil for the Rio 2016 Olympics, but those plans never came to fruition. The seating used at the arena did at least find a new home, though, with Barnet FC owner Tony Kleanthous buying it to use in the construction of the lower-league soccer club’s Hive Stadium.

Lee Valley White Water Centre

Location: Hertfordshire
Cost: UK£31 million
Capacity: 12,000
Opened: December 2010
Time to build: One year, six months
Events hosted: Canoe slalom

Also operated by the Better company, the Lee Valley White Water Centre was both the first new venue to open to the public before London 2012 and the first to reopen its doors just six weeks after the Games had finished, offering activities such as white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking.

Less than two years after the Olympics the venue had already completed a UK£6.3 million (US$7.6 million) redevelopment and expansion project that led to the creation of new facilities made to cater for events and conferences, while also establishing itself as a permanent training base for Team GB’s canoe slalom team.

As of September last year, the venue had attracted more than 3.4 million visitors since opening and has also hosted an impressive portfolio of elite events, including the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup and the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, which it is slated to stage for a second time next year.

The Lee Valley White Water Centre continues to be used by the public and for elite events

Riverbank Arena

Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Cost: UK£19 million
Capacity: 15,000
Opened: June 2012
Time to build: N/A
Events hosted: Hockey

One of six temporary venues to be used during the Games, the Riverbank Arena was scaled down after London 2012 and moved to Eton Manor, which hosted the wheelchair tennis during the Paralympics and is now a sports and leisure venue known as Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

Run by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, the Leyton-based venue reopened to the public in 2014 after undergoing a UK£30 million (US$36 million) conversion. Its facilities include two hockey pitches, four indoor tennis courts and six outdoor courts that are available to both amateur and elite athletes.

The venue’s 3,000-seat hockey stadium, which can increase its capacity to 15,000 for international events, has staged the 2015 EuroHockey Championships and the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup, while also regularly playing host to the GB men’s and women’s national teams.

As for the Riverbank Arena’s distinctive bright blue and pink surface, that now resides at Sheffield’s Hallam University.

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