Shoppers queue to see Europe’s biggest shopping centre
People queued up to get their first glimpse inside Europe's largest urban shopping centre and gateway to the new Olympic Park as it officially opened its doors to the public today.
By 8am - two hours before most shops opened - people lined up to enter Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London which is home to more than 300 shops, 70 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, three hotels, a bowling alley and the UK's largest casino.
Most of the shops, including Marks and Spencer and John Lewis, were opening from 10am with London mayor Boris Johnson and Frank Lowy, chairman and co-founder of the Westfield Group, cutting the ribbon by midday.
Pixie Geldof and TV presenter Nick Grimshaw were the event hosts and pop star Nicole Scherzinger was due to perform live.
On the ground floor, Jamie Oliver's first London-based Ministry of Food will be offering cooking lessons, demonstrations and culinary advice in Jamie's Italian restaurant.
Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, said: "When we granted outline planning permission for Westfield Stratford City in 2005, we knew it would benefit the borough.
"Westfield represents more than just bricks, mortar and fabulous shops and restaurants, it has been instrumental in helping us to transform the lives of our residents by providing them with employment and jobs that they can turn into fulfilling and rewarding careers.
"Shoppers, tourists and visitors will also bring further economic benefits to Newham and will leave a lasting legacy long after the Olympics has rolled out of town."
Large digital screens have been placed around the centre - which cost £1.4 billion - to show the main sporting events during the Olympics as well as travel updates and news.
Transport for London advised shoppers travelling to the centre today to take advantage of improved transport links to the area.
Millions of pounds have been invested in new and upgraded stations and transport links to Stratford in time for the launch.
London's Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, said: "With our partners, we've invested to ensure all transport improvements are complete ahead of the opening of Westfield Stratford City and well ahead of the London 2012 Games.
"This part of east London is now one of the best connected in the country and Londoners are already benefiting from this early legacy.
"We have transport and traffic plans in place to manage the increase in people travelling to Westfield. However, these plans are very different to those we will put in place during the Games, when 100% of spectators will travel by public transport, walking or cycling."
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) said it will be operating security checks on vehicles entering the public car park at the new Westfield shopping centre until the end of the Games in September 2012.
Paul Deighton, LOCOG CEO, said: "Delivering a safe and secure Games is a key priority for everyone involved in London 2012.
"With Westfield so close to the Olympic Park and with vehicle access to it directly accessed from the Park, it is an obvious and important part of our security plans.
"We will make the checks as quick and unobtrusive as possible - we are confident that shoppers will recognise the need for us to be vigilant and carry out these checks."