Thousands of shoppers descend on Westfield Stratford as Europe's largest mega-mall opens for business


-Pixie Geldof and Nicole Scherzinger launch glittering east London site as London Mayor Boris Johnson cuts ribbon
-Shock as glass ceiling tile crashes down into food court yards from Mayor
-Scroll down for the full list of 268 shops and eateries

By Claire Bates and Deborah Arthurs

Hysteria: Excitement reached fever pitch as Nicole Scherzinger performed to the crowds gathered at the new Westfield shopping centre in Stratford

Excited screams filled every inch of the newly launched Westfield Stratford as the gleaming megalith flung its glossy doors open to an eager public this morning.

If Britain is in the grip of a recession, there was no sign of it here as thousands pushed through the glass doors, wallets at the ready, to explore the much-hyped halls of the east London shopping centre. Hysteria reached fever pitch as Pixie Geldof and Nick Grimshaw welcomed the masses, calling London mayor Boris Johnson on to the stage to cut the ribbon and declare the centre open.

Ex-Pussycat Doll and U.S. X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger took to the stage and, as the strains of her voice rang out into the furthest reaches of the packed mega-mall, the crowd - teenagers, middle-aged men and grannies alike - were whipped into a state of fervour.

Get shopping: Flanked by Westfield's directors, London Mayor Boris Johnson cuts the ribbon, declaring the centre open

Sultry star: Singer Nicole Scherzinger arrives at Westfield Stratford City ahead of her performance

It was a stellar unveiling of what is the commercial jewel in the crown of the Olympic development - and its launch befitted its status.

The only blemish on the otherwise perfect day came when a large glass ceiling tile 5ft by 2.5ft dislodged itself from the ceiling of the centre, crashing to the ground in the food court yards from where Boris Johnson stood.

Giving a radio interview at the time, the Mayor brushed the incident aside, instead praising the hard work that had gone in to the site's construction. 'They have worked flat-out down here and whatever has happened over there I'm sure will be investigated and cleared up as soon as possible.'

The majority of the 200,000 shoppers who had been expected to converge on this shiny mini-city were blissfuly unaware of the drama that had unfolded, though some took to Twitter to discuss the drama of the day.

'A metal roof tile has fallen from the roof of Westfield Stratford onto the floor of the food court & smashed just yards from @MayorOfLondon,' said one, with another commenting that 'you can't get the builders in London these days!.'

Others used the social networking site to express their disbelief at the scenes
'Hard to believe there's an economic slowdown. Stratford Westfield is chaos, serious crowd issues,' said one.

'So many people here, it's amazing, what recession?' another queried.

Some were critical - in particular of the decision to locate what will be the UK's largest casino on the site.

'I actually hate the location of Westfield in East London, makes no sense and is perverse, like the amount of betting shops in East also,' said one.

'Why do we need more gambling in East London?' another asked.

But others remained positive - with one local from Westfield's new home, the borough of Newham, saying they welcome the shopping centre with open arms.

Busy: A steady stream of customers arrived to explore the new shopping centre

Big impact: Stores in the new shopping centre feature impressive window displays on a scale not often possible on the High Street

'I don't know why people are complaining about people going to the new Westfield. As someone from Newham I think its a positive thing for our community,' Emmanuella Jukz said.

Another was even more enthusiastic, saying: '*Screams* Westfield is coming to Stratford yaaaassssss! Goodbye west end its been emotional.'

TV presenter Nick Grimshaw is hosting the event, while Kelly Brook is hanging out at the New Look store, meeting and greeting customers young and old.

Queues had formed by 8am as Westfield opened its doors, with long lines outside shops offering giveaway bags such as U.S chain Forever 21, Topshop and adidas. Shoppers were then welcomed into the stores themselves at 10am.

Extensive: The store accommodates 300 shops, including a large John Lewis, top left, and M&S, bottom left, as well as a Waitrose

Waiting patiently: Hordes queue to be allowed entry into the shopping centre ahead of the first day trading

Crowds gather: Press and the public jostle for space as doors open at Westfield Stratford City today

Ready, steady, shop! Excitement builds in Stratford as Europe's biggest urban shopping mall opens

Olympic and Paralympic athletes will be signing autographs to mark the shopping centre's role as 'gateway' to the Olympic Park and Athletes' Village ahead of the 2012 games.

Olympic medallist Colin Jackson will launch the first Lloyds TSB branch since 2004 and customers will be able to have their photo taken with the 2012 Olympic Torch.

Olympic synchronised swimmer Jenna Randall and rower Andy Triggs-Hodge will also be signing autographs when they open Next's new store.

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.

Big attraction: Queues form outside the second UK branch of Forever 21 inside the complex

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who will help cut the ribbon at today's launch, said: 'Westfield's Stratford City project is setting the pace for the transformation of east London. It is one of the most important legacies of the 2012 Olympics.

'It will create 18,000 jobs and, as a result of Westfield's investment, have some of the most modern additions to London's public transport infrastructure.'

Frank Lowy, chairman and co-founder of Westfields, will also attend.

The retail behemoth is 'anchored' by a 240,000 sq ft John Lewis department store, a 32,000 sq ft Waitrose supermarket, and a 200,000 sq ft Marks & Spencer.

John Lewis are keen to appear more innovative at their first London outlet for 20 years, and customers will be able to test a range of technology and electricals before they buy.

Managing director Andy Street said: 'We're not investing for one year, we are investing for 50 years and probably more.

'We are very confident that Stratford will become the natural retail destination for this part of London.

'We have no fears about opening this store, we are really confident that this will be a really successful regional mall.

'What makes me so sure of this is because if you look at east London there is no main centre for it at all, unlike west London which has a choice. It's a catchment waiting to be served.'

Marks and Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland cut the ribbon to open the third largest M&S in the UK.

He said: 'I think on site we need to be positive and celebrate the good things we have. This is certainly one of the good things we have in the country.'

Customers exhausted by shopping will be able to sit down in one of the 70 cafes and restaurants. These will include both a McDonald's and a KFC (which were deemed too down-market for Westfield London in White City).

However, it will also launch 'The Great Eastern Market', which will include a sprinkling of independent fresh food providers in an attempt to create a Borough Market vibe.

For entertainment there is a 17-screen 3D Vue cinema and a 14-lane bowling alley.

From December, Stratford City will also include a huge branch of Aspers, which will be the UK's largest casino - a controversial choice for a regeneration project.

Those who can't bear to leave these consumer delights can stay in one of the 617 rooms in three on-site hotels - including a 4-star Holiday Inn, executive Staybridge Suites and Premier Inn.

The launch of the mega mall follows on from the surprising success of Westfield London, opened in 2008, which welcomed 23million visitors in its first year and has shown 20 per cent annual growth despite the economic gloom.

Stratford looks set to continue the trend with 96 per cent of retail spaces already let.

Monolith: There are three levels of double-tiered shops, with 70 cafes and restaurantsm including a McDonald's and a KFC

A city of shops: The shopping centre will act as 'gateway' to the Olympic Park and Athletes' Village ahead of the 2012 games

Remember where you left it? The Westfield car park will have 5,000 spaces

Westfield promoters say the Stratford branch has 'unrivalled connectivity' pointing out that 4.1million people with a spending power of £3.2billion live within a 45-minute drive.

The granite structure was built on former disused railway land and the company has ploughed £150million into public transport.

The centre, which is based in the deprived borough of Newham, will also provide 10,000 permanent retail jobs, including 2,000 put aside for the local unemployed.

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.'

However, nearby retailers say they fear they may lose their livelihoods as experts say local high streets and other shopping centres north of the Thames will suffer.

The developers have also worked hard to try and avoid accusations of damaging the local environment.

In the beginning: The first Westfield shopping centre opened in Blacktown, Sydney in 1959. It was built next to a newly electrified major railway station

A spokesman said the buildings are at least 10 per cent more energy efficient than required by building regulations by using natural light, effective insulation and maximising the effect of solar heating.

The waste management system will recycle or recover 50 per cent of the retail waste, while many of the roofs have been designated as 'brown roofs' to encourage wildlife.

An on-site combined cooling, heat and power plant will provide 75 per cent of the enormous electrical power that Westfield will consume.

The first Westfield, given the name 'Westfield Place', was opened by Australian businessmen John Saunders and Frank Lowy in the suburbs of Sydney in 1959 and boasted 12 shops, two department stores and a supermarket.

Now 43 years later, the property developers have seen their humble beginnings go global, their incredible success topped by the opening of this, the largest urban shopping centre in Europe.

source: dailymail