Day Out at the Olympic ParkBy Charlotte Downes -
Four years ago, the attitude to the Olympic Legacy was much the same as the reaction to our successful Olympic Bid back in 2005: it would start off looking so promising, before going embarrassingly downhill. On both counts, the British public have been very pleasantly surprised!
I enjoyed a day out at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park last week. It was my first visit there, despite my fascination with anything even vaguely Olympic, and it was so much better than even I had imagined!
Despite parts still being developed, there was something exciting to see everywhere you looked. As I headed towards the Aquatics Centre, I'm fairly sure I saw S7 classification swimmer Susie Rodgers leaving a training session ahead of the Rio Paralympics starting this week. The day before, my friend was watching Paralympics GB athletes training in the pool from the gym where she was working out.
We were able to gain access to The Aquatics Centre as it's now a part of Better Gyms, whose discounted Inclusive Membership offers all kinds of help to people with disabilities. It was amazing to be able to swim in the pool where both Team GB and Paralympics GB have trained and competed. Full accessibility guides are available on their website, but there is level access from the entrance to the pool side and a pod lift into the water. There are accessible showers and changing rooms.
I was visiting to enjoy the Extreme Aquasplash. As someone suffering with mental illness, it was a great way for me to challenge myself and remind myself how strong I am. It helped me to realise how much I enjoy going out with friends and exercising.
Next, we visited the ArcelorMittal Orbit and its spectacular slide. Again, it was challenging because of its huge drop and the fact that it was a windy day. Stretched out in full it would be taller than the Eiffel Tower! The freedom it gives you is amazing. It honestly feels like flying. For the forty seconds the descent lasts, you absolutely forget yourself. And the experience is preceded by beautiful panoramic views of London from a unique angle.
Audio descriptive guides are available as well as written information for anyone hard of hearing. The viewing platforms are accessible by lift and individual requirements for the tower and slide can be discussed with staff prior to a visit - they will do what they can to accommodate everyone.
The Queen Elizabeth Park in general is a great place for a day out, with its wide paths, ramps and wheelchair hire. Not to mention the fountains to play in, café, urban beach and other sporting facilities. All the information you could want is available and all needs are catered for as the park was groundbreaking as a Paralympic venue.
But above all, you are surrounded by the 2012 Legacy and reminders of everything our Olympians and Paralympians have achieved. There are reminders everywhere of the importance of determination and how much we have to be proud of as a nation and as individuals.