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Whats in Wapping

The Olympic anniversary – a unique look back at London 2012 from Wapping

The Olympic anniversary – a unique look back at London 2012 from Wapping

Worries about how Wapping would be completely cut off and we would have 100 days on Wapping Island were looking increasingly likely as Olympic preparations grew closer this time last year.

But compromises were made and by the time the Olympics arrived, threats of doom and gloom vanished and for Wapping, like the rest of London it became “a summer like no other”!

So here is our very unique look back at what London 2012 meant for Wapping.

Starting at the very beginning in the winter of January 2012 we pay tribute to the many Tower Bridge abseilers who worked for months through the rain and wind to install the new lighting system:


The London Shard was still under construction as the abseilers worked by rope suspended over the River Thames to install the new lighting cables.


The end result was stunning. Tower Bridge light shows in many colours took place during the Games, but here’s one of our favourite classics which we dedicate to all those abseilers who made it possible:

Coloured lights illuminate Tower Bridge as the bascules are raised during a rehearsal event believed to be related to the Opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games - 24 July 2012

In February, we first saw the Olympic rings float past Wapping on a giant barge – seen here in front of Olivers Wharf. They certainly brightened up a grey winters day:

Olympic rings float past Oliver's Wharf in Wapping High Street

In March, the Marine Police Unit in Wapping were carrying out all manor of odd looking rehearsal activities on the river (security rehearsals) by day. By night, they worked within the Police Unit in Wapping High Street as PC George showed us:


By June, Tower Bridge was in the spotlight again as Danny Boyle’s filming for the opening ceremony saw an Olympic coloured helicopter fly straight through Tower Bridge.


July came around quickly and in the middle of the night, the Olympic Route Network appeared as Olympic rings were speedily painted all along the Highway and the barriers went up.

Vickie Flores/LNP

This is the East End though! So “crossing closed” signs were mostly ignored (in good spirit) by residents.


The action moved to Tobacco Dock as it was transformed at the last minute into a temporary military barracks for 3,500 troops after the G4S fiasco. After a few days quick work by the Royal Engineers, the troops began to arrive by coach after coach.

Tobacco Dock Olympic military 2

Food is fuel for the British Army, so the temporary military kitchen was producing meals around the clock in no time from a giant tent.

Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

The troops became a huge hit with the locals, especially the children.

An Olympic tribute to Dennis St Croix in Wapping Gardens - 21 July 2012

On 21st July an Olympic tribute to Denis St Croix, a tireless fundraiser took place in Wapping Gardens as daughter Yasmin and son Thomas unveiled a memorial bench after Yasmin had run with the Olympic Torch in Tower Hamlets.

An Olympic tribute to Dennis St Croix in Wapping Gardens - 21 July 2012

The Olympics officially started as the Opening Ceremony saw Tower Bridge explode with fireworks.

Fireworks explode off Tower Bridge during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games - 27 July 2012

Wapping is used to seeing unusual river traffic passing by, but this boat which flew past as part of the James Bond sketch during the Opening Ceremony surprised everyone.

Tower Bridge fireworks

As the Olympic Games began further east, Wapping was very quiet. But not for long. Team GB won their first gold and here is Leila from the Turk’s Head Cafe at that exact moment.

Tobacco Dock soldiers meet Wapping residents and Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman

More interesting river traffic passed by Wapping as landing craft from HMS Ocean moored at Greenwich glided past on their daily patrols. Even the British Army couldn’t resist stopping off for a pint at the Prospect of Whitby pub (photos courtesy of The Propect via Twitter).


Wapping was really quiet as many people seemed to have decided to go on holiday, but at nearby St Katharine Docks the Danish Village brought life to the area.

One of the highlights of Visit Denmark was the Lego Olympic village created by the very talented Lego creator, Warren Elsmore:

Olympic lego

As the Olympics drew to a close, there was still another surprise to come in the name of a small notice about a road closure …for a military marching band, which turned out to be the Royal Marines band who joined a farewell ceremony to the Tobacco Dock troops.

As word got out, Wapping Rose Gardens filled with TV crews just as the Royal Marines band arrived:

Ceremony for Tobacco Dock armed forces and community workers in Wapping Rose Gardens - 12 August 2012

Local resident, Dame Helen Mirren joined in the celebration and made their day as she posed with the troops for pictures

Ceremony for Tobacco Dock armed forces and community workers in Wapping Rose Gardens - 12 August 2012

Then residents took their turn and the celebration turned into Wapping’s very own Olympic Closing Ceremony.

Ceremony for Tobacco Dock armed forces and community workers in Wapping Rose Gardens - 12 August 2012

The Paralympics came and the good spirits in Wapping continued, albeit on a smaller scale until they too came to a close.

Even the pink pig who had kept the children entertained at the Visit Denmark village at St Katharine Docks had to wave goodbye (probably to the relief of his photographer).


But the Paralympics didn’t finish without a bang. Tower Bridge exploded in the most amazing fireworks we’ve ever seen:


Almost over, but not quite. An Olympic parade saw 800 athletes travel on 21 floats in a celebration for the achievements of competitors from Team GB and ParalympicsGB at London 2012.

Here were triathlete brothers Alistair Browniee and Jonathan Browniee as their float passed close to Wapping on the way to the Olympic parade.


Almost a month after their gold and bronze medal wins the brothers still looked like they couldn’t quite believe what London 2012 had brought them.

Neither could Wapping, who for so many reasons, it really was a summer like no other!


  • James W

    Incredible photos as always Vickie and as you say, despite the doom and gloom in the run up to it Wapping saw some very unique times during the Olympics. Thanks for reminding us of them.

  • Mummy Penguin

    These photos gave me a flavour of what it was like locally during the Olympics. I missed it because I was foolish enough to fall and spent the entire period in hospital. So many thanks to What’s in Wapping for sharing the experience.

  • http://lovewapping.org/ Mark Baynes

    Cracking photos!

  • Sue Hughes

    What fabulous images of a truly amazing summer in Wapping, thanks for capturing them Vickie for us to enjoy!