diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 24, 2009

London 2012  Olympic update
  Olympic Park South

Olympic Stadium 2009London 2012 has a very big stadium, as becomes particularly obvious when you're parked in a minibus directly alongside the outer rim. Up top is a not-quite-complete ring of gleaming white roof trusses, all linked together like a set of giant drinking straws. Beneath that is a detachable ridged bowl resting on a framework of thin steel, where thousands of spectators will sit to watch tiny athletes sprinting around the inner track. Then you reach 'platform level', which is a concrete circle propped up on stilts around the perimeter allowing access to the seats in the permanent lower grandstand. And down at ground level is a temporary decorated screen, erected for reasons of safety and security, on which is displayed artwork produced by a dozen local schools. You've seen thrillinger stadia, to be honest, but then the best view is rarely to be had from the outside.

I think our bus had parked on top of the culverted Pudding Mill River, or thereabouts, but it was very hard to tell. There used to be a gentle hill here too, but both valley and earth have been levelled out and there are almost no distinguishing features left. Instead there's a new distinguishing feature, and it's of global significance.

City Mill River 2009Once our tour guide had outpoured every relevant nugget of stadium-related trivia the bus moved on. We passed beneath the green footbridge that crosses from the edge of the stadium to an office block of piled-high portakabins. This is the nerve centre of "Team Stadium", where construction workers change into muddy safety boots and engineers plot the progress of their grand designs. You wouldn't believe how busy Pudding Mill Lane DLR station is these days after they all clock off at the end of a workday afternoon. Our tour was after hours, however, so we encountered no congestion on our drive round the southern perimeter.

Another bridge crossing, because a network of rivers threads through the site so there need to be lots of ways of getting across. I was pleased to note that the City Mill River was still very much intact, glistening in the evening sun with its banks lined, infilled and strengthened. It provided a striking waterside setting for the grand arena, and who knows, it may even be the water and not the buildings which makes the biggest impression on world TV audiences in 2012.

Manor Garden allotments 2009One final port of call on our whistlestop tour of the proto-Olympic Park. The bus headed down what's left of Carpenter's Road to stop beside the fledgling Aquatic Centre. Only the building's inner skeleton was visible, a series of metal supports linked by struts and supporting girders, creating a signature waveform at roof level. The structure's already more interesting-looking than the stadium, and that's before it receives its outer layer of metal cladding. I rather liked the opportunity to see the Aquatic Centre's secret interior close-up, even if it was still a few months too early to see how all the curves and towers properly join together. A little too early as well to see the bridge that's going to sweep out of the neighbouring Stratford City complex and pass above the central neck of the building on its way to the stadium beyond. There's a heck of a lot of transformation still to go.

Time to round off the trip, backtracking past the stadium and dipping down beneath the Greenway. I was particularly pleased by this because I'm taking a set of photographs from the top of the Greenway bridge every month, and our minibus journey at last afforded the reverse view. We then exited the park through the southern transport interchange, a brand new hub where Park workers transfer each morning to the shuttles which will transport them to their various worksites. It's all run with buses, this London 2012 project, and having visited some of the outer reaches of the construction site I can see why.

And that was it, end of tour, so our bloggers minibus headed back to the layby outside Stratford station. Thanks were due to our 2012 hosts (and who knows, maybe they even spent your taxes on the petrol). And then we went down the pub.

Other reports from the bus
Jane's London (frosty)
Ian Visits (informative)
Onionbagblogger (audio)
London Daily Photo (pictorial)
Londonist (galleried)

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