Tower Hamlets pupils hope to shape east London’s Olympic legacy

Tower Hamlets school pupils used their half-term holidays to tour the Olympic Park in Stratford as they take up roles on a youth panel which will have a say in its legacy.

They joined a total of thirty pupils from the six host Olympic boroughs, also including Hackney and Newham to give the once-over to the Olympic venues on Friday, including the main stadium, handball arena and aquatics centre, which are due to be completed this summer.

They are the latest uptake into the Olympic Park Legacy Company’s Youth Panel programme, founded in 2008 for young people aged between 14 and 19, which has put forward ideas to park designers, architects and MPs.

The new members will also be mentored by OPLC staff and learn about future job opportunities at the park.

Farhana Aktar, 15, of St Paul’s Way Trust School in Shelmerdine Close, Bow, said: “It’s really important to get us involved because following the Athens Games [in 2004], the local people weren’t involved and there wasn’t a proper legacy.”

Her first suggestion to OPLC members was that the 17,500-seater aquatics centre which will see British diver Tom Daley compete for Olympic glory next year, be open free of charge to under-16s for swimming after 2012.

Atqiya Islam, 16, of Central Foundation Girls’ School in Harley Grove, said: “This is a great opportunity to meet other young people from different boroughs.”

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Previous panels presented MP Tessa Jowell, the then Olympics minister, with a manifesto in 2009 which included plans to make the park well-lit and to improve transport links.