But before that, allow me to share some scenes from downtown London. Regent Street had flags of all competing nations proudly displayed high up on the street. Of course, I just had to search for our own Jalur Gemilang, and I felt a deep sense of pride when I finally found it. Hope we'll finally get that first gold medal ever!
And there was a big countdown clock at Trafalgar Square that was simply awesome. It was unveiled back in March, marking 500 days to go till the Games.
Now, on to the tour. The meeting point was the Bromley-By-Bow underground station, and honestly, I thought I had missed the tour as I miscalculated how long it'd take to get there from Paddington and arrived 10 minutes late. I mean, it was about 12 stops away. Jauh giler!
Luckily though, the friendly tour guide was still waiting for the latecomers, so I was safe! The fee was nine pounds only, and from there, we started walking towards Newham, one of the six host boroughs for the Games. If you didn't know already, the London Games are held in East London, a side of the city that had been long neglected, and the main pitch by the British government was that the East side would be "regenerated" if the Olympics were awarded to them. We were also told that Newham was once voted as the "third worst place to live in England", and the Olympics had in fact brought loads of new development there as promised.
Anyway, we then passed The 3 Mills Studios. What's so important about this particular studio? Well, this is where secret rehearsals for the Opening Ceremony are being held, directed by none other than Danny Boyle.
Then we walked towards Stratford (not to be mistaken with Stratford-Upon-Avon), which is still within Newham, and where most of the development can be seen and where the Olympic Park is located.
We also passed by the Strand East Tower, a 40m landmark structure built as part of a new landscaped public space by Dane's Yard.
Then, we started to see shiny new buildings. The guide actually said, "We came here in 2005 and we couldn't believe that the Olympic Games would be held here. But it's a different place altogether now".
The bridge below will be opened very soon, and this is where thousands of people would cross to get to the Olympic Park after coming down from the train at the West Ham underground station.
Then, it was time to get to the good stuff. Within better view now was the ArcelorMittal Orbit, or affectionately known as simply "The Orbit", a 115m-high observation tower within the Olympic Park.
More info from Wikipedia: "The steel sculpture isBritain's largest piece of public art, and is intended to be a permanent, lasting legacy of London's hosting of the 2012 Summer Olympics, assisting in the post-Olympics regeneration of the Stratford area. Sited between the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, it allows visitors to view the whole Olympic Park from two observation platforms.
Orbit was designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond. Announced on 31 March 2010, the tower was expected to be completed by December 2011, though like many projects on the Olympic Park, that date was pushed back.
The project is expected to cost £19.1 million, with £16 million coming from Britain's richest man, the steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman of the ArcelorMittal steel company, and the balance of £3.1 million coming from the London Development Agency."
Personally, I think it just looks weird and some of my fellow tourists concurred. But I wouldn't mind going up the tower one of these days!
Then we walked towards another highlight before the Olympic Park; the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre! It was opened last September with a retail area of more than 1.8m square feet, and is one of the largest urban malls in all of Europe. Thousands of jobs have been created, and it is estimated that more than 30,000 new homes will be built around this area.
It is indeed a shopping haven for everyone with tons of shops anchored by the John Lewis department store. Oh yes, needless to say, I did some bit of shopping here myself after the tour!
Adjacent to the mall is the Olympic Park, where the Olympic Village and several other venues such as the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre are located. Of course we couldn't get inside the Park, but I did manage to snap some pics through the entrance gate.
You could also get to see other parts of the Park from around the mall area, including the Olympic Village, where most of the athletes will be staying.
And that wrapped up our tour. Now, let the Games begin!