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The Olympic Village Park (Photo courtesy olympic.org)

The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics are just days away. London’s very expensive makeover is almost complete and she is thrilled that the whole world is focused on her. This, of course, means that even Stratford, a typically neglected area, with its vast collection of derelict buildings, industrial spaces, and monochrome landscapes, is in the limelight.

Is it a building or is it art?

The Orbit by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond (Photo courtesy arcelormittalorbit.com)

If you have time to see one iconic piece of ‘art’ during the 2012 Olympics, make it Anish Kapoor’s and Cecil Balmond’s ‘Orbit’. It is an observation deck that stands 115 metres tall in the Olympic Park and offers an all-encompassing view of London. At first glance, it looks like a cross between a roller coaster track and a building. Closer inspection reveals it to be a more intriguing landmark with ambiguous aesthetics. Some see it as a building, others as a sculpture.

An artistic stopover… If the ‘Orbit’ doesn’t seem like an enticing option, then consider a visit to Stour Space, an art gallery that showcases the work of local artists. Stour Space has the unique advantage of being one of the few public buildings that overlook the Olympic Stadium and the River Lea. Stour Space has its own restaurant called The Counter Café. With its serene ambience and artsy crowd, Stour Space offers a break from the chaos and mania emanating from the Olympic Park.

To shop or not to shop… After a day of watching competitive sport under the open, and possibly wet, British sky, an indoor sanctuary might just be what you need. Westfield Stratford City Mall has over 300 shops and you can find anything from Prada to Primark in this capsule of opulence. All you need is the stamina and patience to traverse its expansive layout. A haven for shoppers, the Mall also has a cinema and bowling alley.

A waitress serves barbecue at Cabana

Cuisine galore… A trip to London is not complete without the obligatory trip to a local fish and chips place, and with over 50 cafés and restaurants in Westfield alone, food options in Stratford are aplenty. If your palate desires Asian Fusion, then head to Busaba Eathai for some fresh salads and tangy curries. For the carnivores amongst you, nothing beats the juicy flavours in Cabana – a Brazilian barbecue joint. If you somehow tire of these and long for mouth-watering Pakistani food, then Tayyab’s and Lahore Kebab are just a taxi ride away.

In a nutshell… With the Olympic Park complete, Stratford has, at last, come of age.

– Sheherzad Kaleem
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