10 Years On: The Little-Known Olympic Legacies

By M@
10 Years On: The Little-Known Olympic Legacies
A set of Olympic rings in front of the pringle-shaped stadium.
Image by the author, Matt Brown

What was the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics? It's a question that's played out many times across the media. Usually, the focus is on the big legacies, such as the Olympic Park itself; the huge venues such as the stadium (now West Ham's home ground), Aquatics Centre, Velodrome and Orbit Tower; and the numerous sporting and volunteering initiatives that have the Games as their fountainhead.

But the Games left many smaller legacies across London. Here we look back at just a handful of London's less prominent features that wouldn't exist had it not been for London 2012.  

The Olympic Ring benches

Remember these?

A set of Olympic rings dangles from Tower Bridge. They're pointed out with a red arrow
Image by the author, Matt Brown

Back in 2012, Olympic rings were installed on Tower Bridge, St Pancras International, the Olympic Park and Heathrow Airport. But what became of them? Were they broken up, placed in storage, given to another host city, or thrown into the fiery pit of Mount Doom?

Well, the St Pancras rings were chopped up and turned into seating. You can still find the colourful benches at Stratford 'International', Ebbsfleet International and St Pancras. Here are a few of the St Pancras ones, hidden in a pocket park on Camley Street, and looking a bit worse for wear on our last visit.

Colourful Olympic benches (blue and yellow) hidden in a shrubbery
Image by the author, Matt Brown

The Tower Bridge and Heathrow rings were apparently recycled, while the set in the Olympic Park remain there to this day, along with the Paralympic Agitos.

The Olympic outdoor gyms

A London 2012 logo etched onto a playground and seen from above
Image Google satellite view

From the start, organisers of the London 2012 Games were keen that it should leave a lasting legacy of sports participation and improved fitness for all. Besides the sporting venues themselves, the Games live on in a series of branded outdoor gyms peppered across the country. These 'adiZones' (guess the sponsor) "incorporate basketball, football and tennis areas, a climbing wall, an outdoor gym and an open area to encourage dance, aerobics and gymnastics". Around half a dozen can be found across London, including examples in Mile End Park, Charlton and Beckton.

A Paralympic orchard

Very small, proto-apples growing on a tree, with the London Olympic stadium and Orbit tower in the background
The 2022 crop beginning to form on a Paralympic apple tree. Image by the author, Matt Brown

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the single biggest legacy of the Games, and includes many memorials and features that remember the summer of 2012. Perhaps the least known, but most intriguing is this Paralympic Orchard a little north of the stadium.

A series of small trees interspersed with brick columns
Also known as the Mandeville Orchard, here's part of it in winter. Image by the author Matt Brown

The 55 trees in the orchard represent the British gold medallists from the London 2012 Paralympics. You'll find many different varieties growing side by side, supposedly linked to the medallists' home counties.

The gold postboxes

A gold postbox beside a larger red parcel box. A white van is parked behind
Gold postbox for dressage champ Charlotte Dujardin, in Enfield. Image by the author, Matt Brown

Perhaps the most visible legacy of the Games are the numerous gold post boxes to be found all over the country. Each one represents a British gold medallist from the Olympics or Paralympics. Fifteen auric postboxes can be found in Greater London. We previously put together a handy map, should you wish to track them down.

A new postcode

In 2011 Royal Mail created the E20 postcode district to serve the Olympic Park. It's not every day that London gets a new postal district (the only other recent example we can think of is the creation of N1C in King's Cross), so this was a big deal.

A red-painted underpass with Albert Square E20 sign, and portraits of various characters from Eastenders
A previous use of E20. Image taken near the Eastenders studios in Borehamwood, by the author, Matt Brown

The E20 district has, of course, seen previous use in a fictional setting — it's also the code for Walford in the soap Eastenders.

The museum pieces

A pink and white street sign advising about London 2012 Olympic traffic
A London 2012 traffic sign at London Transport Museum Acton Depot. Image by the author, Matt Brown

London 2012 generated untold amounts of "stuff" — from Opening Ceremony costumes, to relay torches, to medal-winners' clothing, to road signs. Much of it has been scattered to the four winds and either dumped or in private ownership, but quite a lot can be found in museums.

Perhaps most notably, a large section of the Heatherwick-designed Olympic Cauldron can be found in the Museum of London (until it closes ahead of moving at the end of 2022), but the museum also has other artefacts, including this miniature protest.

A collection of figurines protests the Olympic Games. On the left, toy soldiers approach the protest
Image by the author, Matt Brown

The fate of the mascots

What became of Wenlock and Mandeville, the Olympic and Paralympic mascots? A while back, we tracked them both down to discover what they've been up to in the intervening time. The years have not been kind...

Last Updated 22 July 2022

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