diamond geezer

 Wednesday, February 13, 2008

London 2012  2012 Olympic update
  Flat out

When my eldest nephew was little, he had a thing about diggers. Big yellow earthmovers, huge scoop-fronted lorries, giant grab-arms on wheels, that sort of thing. He'd insist on getting all the digger books out of the local library, and playing with his Bob the Builder workshop, and watching and rewatching his favourite digger documentaries on video. And if we ever passed a building site he'd demand that we stop to take a look at all the fluorescent men in helmets and all the digging they were doing. He'd have absolutely adored standing on the Greenway bridge within the Olympic Park.

Olympic Stadium site - February 2008Every day, seven days a week, the Lower Lea Valley is crawling with dumper trucks and front-shovel lorries busy rumbling across the uneven landscape. Watch for only a minute and a queue of dirty vehicles will emerge from behind a heap of earth and head off up the temporary road over the spoil heap, before dumping their load and crawling back for more. There are more diggers here than a boy could ever dream of seeing across the building sites of East Anglia. "Look, digger! Digger! Digger!" Shame he's now a decade too old to appreciate the view.

There were two big problems with the site of the 2012 Olympic Stadium. Problem one (it was covered with warehouses and factories) is now solved, thanks to a lot of lawyers and some demolition squads. Problem two (it's not flat) is taking rather longer to sort out. You wouldn't think that this part of East London would have many contours, especially surrounded by quite so many rivers, but there's a distinct mound-iness to the area that's proving a challenge to flatten out. The hill where the medals are going to be presented, that summit's got to be removed. And the riverbank where the burgers are going to be sold, that's got to be raised up so that the stadium doesn't tip down into the water. The ODA are spending months moving all the earth from one spot to the other, just to balance things out.

But considerable progress is already being made. To the west of Marshgate Lane, where local kids used to buzz their motor scooters over rough hillocks and down muddy slides, that's all flat already. There's now an extensive earth platform with a steep bank that curves round in a giant arc - not yet a complete semicircle but gradually heading that way. It's the first physical sign of the edge of the 2012 stadium, or at least of the surrounding piazza where all the spectators will mill around to buy hotdogs and souvenir t-shirts. Two temporary buildings have already been erected, each piled high with gleaming white portakabins, each three storeys high, and roughly the same size as a small secondary school. The white flag of Sir Robert McAlpine flutters from the roof above this busy HQ, from which the surrounding deconstruction and re-landscaping is being coordinated. And deep within these buildings are hundreds of grown-up kids who used to love watching diggers when they were little, now earning a tidy packet building London's Olympic dream. Never fear, everything's on track.

The latest in my monthly series of photos of Olympic Stadium development (and reverse slideshow here)
Fantastic aerial photo of the nearly-levelled Olympic site (with just a few uplifted roads remaining)
The latest earth-moving update from the 2012 Olympic blog
Meanwhile, just in case you thought all the construction news was good, the relocated plotholders from the Manor Garden Allotments tell all about the incompetent migration process...
...and are still discovering just how muddy, waterlogged and useless their replacement site is

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