diamond geezer

 Friday, January 12, 2007

Olympic stroll

There are now only six months until a big security fence is erected around a large chunk of the Lower Lea Valley. In July the Olympic bulldozers move in, razing the area to replace warehouses with international stadia. So I've been out for another not-quite-final walk along the riverbanks, just to see once more what I'll be missing.

It's getting harder to go for a stroll along the Bow Back Rivers. All the footpaths backing St Thomas's Creek have gone, gobbled up by new multi-storey apartment blocks alongside Stratford High Street. The footpath alongside the Waterworks River was sealed off months ago, although signposts still point bleakly towards firmly-locked gates at each end. Along the Old River Lea, beside Marshgate Lane, the footpath has been churned to mud recently by what look like contractors' tyre tracks. And now the stretch along the City Mill River has been gated, with access denied while British Waterways undertake "essential ground investigation works". It's only for a fortnight, apparently, but it's a telling omen of things to come.

But this wintry wasteland still merits a lonely wander. Red pecked berries droop low above the water's edge. Ducks paddle through the bullrushes in search of meagre sustenance. Thin spindly branches filter out the weak winter sunlight. Hibernating vegetation prepares to bud for one final spring, little knowing it'll be hacked down long before autumn.

Local businesses have just six months of on-site life remaining. No longer do the banners of protest hang from the front railings - they've been taken down in recognition of a battle lost. Over Christmas something new appeared on the railings instead. Lawyers representing the Olympic Delivery Authority came round with a pile of legal documents and served compulsory purchase orders on every property. They hung nine-page laminated summaries from selected railings, listing every road and property involved in the government buy-out. Meanwhile the official legal papers (two inches thick) were bagged up in flimsy brown envelopes and attached with plastic ties or brown tape to doors, railings or lampposts as appropriate. Not very well attached, as it turned out. By New Year - following rain, storm and tempest - most of the brown envelopes had crashed to the pavement, ripped open and exposed their soggy contents to the elements. This may be due legal procedure, but it doesn't exactly smack of appropriate care and attention. Six months to wipeout, and counting.

background stuff
Olympic Park masterplan
My Olympic Park photo gallery
Olympic Stadium site - aerial view
Map of 2007 road closures to allow for Olympic building

You're probably bored of me going on and on about the Olympic site by now. Bad luck, because I'll be going on and on a lot more over the next few years. And you'll probably not want to listen to the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London at ten past two this afternoon either, where some boring geezer will be droning on and on about the Olympic site in even greater detail. Nor should you consider using the Listen Again feature afterwards. Thank you.

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