diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 30, 2008

Olympics: First chance to see
Olympic Stadium (October 2008)Pop down to the 2012 Olympic Park every month, as I do, and the pace of change can be dizzying. Especially this month. This is no longer merely the site of the Olympic Stadium, it is the Olympic Stadium. One corner, at least, has sprung from the flattened building site, and it's possible to imagine where you might be sitting in four years time. These steel rakers will support the stadium bowl, the permanent part of the structure which might one day be sold off to Leyton Orient or Harlequins or any sporting enterprise that still has disposable income come 2013. Hundreds of spectators will be perched here during the Games, waving flags and guzzling burgers and watching our athletes going out in the first heats. There's a lot more to be added before the seating goes all the way round, but it won't be long before the metal skeleton of the structure is entirely evident. Then a temporary ring of seating will be installed up top around the circumference, ideal for vertigo-resistant spectators, and the Lea Valley skyline will have been permanently altered. Quite impressive to go from fish processing factory to Olympic Grandstand in fifteen months flat, I think you'll agree. And one thing's for sure - this stadium won't be delivered late. First floor, going up.

Olympics: Last chance to see
Gainsborough School footbridgeThis photo shows a concrete footbridge over the River Lea at Hackney Wick, just south of the A12. It's not an elegant structure, more like a long grey prison cell suspended across the water. The glass in the stairwells is smashed, and there's spiked security fencing at each end to prevent unwelcome guests from gaining entrance. To be honest the bridge hasn't got much going for it these days, although I've always rather liked its stark abandoned ambience. It was built for Gainsborough School, a Victorian pile on the west bank, to allow pupils to cross to the grassy expanse of Arena Fields on the opposite side. But there's no point crossing here any more, not now that Arena Fields has been levelled, razed and despoiled to become part of a rather large Olympic Building site. Pity the residents of neighbouring Leabank Square, beset by dust and construction noise from dawn until dusk for the foreseeable future, and denied access to their favourite (deceased) recreation space. And there'll be even more noise today, sort of noon-ish, as Olympic Delivery Authority workers remove the obsolete bridge using a massive crane, and then deposit it on their site for demolition. That's one more chunk of this area's industrial heritage which'll soon exist only in photographs. Ultimately there'll be a new river crossing which will allow full public access from Hackney Wick's residential estates into the new Olympic Park, but that won't be for years yet. Until then residents can only keep their windows closed and remember what their green view used to look like.

Olympics: No chance to see
Arena Fields 2005 (now a muddy building site
2005 = Arena Fields
2008 = building site

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