diamond geezer

 Monday, March 08, 2010

London 2012  Olympic update
  Build and they will come

The Olympic Stadium's got taller. A ring of triangular struts was first to appear, folded slightly backwards like the points of a wire-frame crown. Two lighting towers have recently joined them, tall and thin and poking up like rabbit ears. Their appearance lifts the stadium to its final height, so if you can't see it from your kitchen window over the rooftops by now then you never will. The effect is to transform the stadium. The lamps within each tower will floodlight the end of the Opening Ceremony, and all the evening athletics finals, and maybe even some of West Ham's football matches (you never know). Suddenly this looks like an arena where sporting history might happen, rather than simply thousands of builders playing with a geometric construction kit.

Olympic Stadium, March 2010

Elsewhere in the Olympic Park, venues and other structures are rising fast. The Aquatic Centre's low-swoosh roof is already a landmark, the Olympic Village almost resembles an inner city housing estate, and a ring of curved struts now marks the perimeter of the handball arena. The perimeter road is under construction, including several bridges curving low across the waterways of the Bow Back Rivers. Up in the northwestern corner the International Broadcast Centre is turning out to be vast, if architecturally vacuous, while alongside the Main Press Centre currently resembles two mall-sized multi-storey car parks. This is peak construction time within the park - at this stage very much a multi-acre building site and, as such, still hard to visualise in Games-ready mode.

Up on the Greenway, the raised sewer-top path which passes the Stadium up close, further changes are underway. Where once was an ambling tarmac track surrounded by grass, now there's an arrow-straight twin-surface carriageway to segregate cyclists from walkers. Various items of "furniture" are being added, including space for benches and a series of as-yet-mysterious concrete posts awaiting the attachment of signs or banners or something. Exits are marked by raised iron lettering in the footway, tastefully applied, although prone to vanish at the first sight of snow. Every so often a glassy plaque has been laid in the path to remind walkers that the Jubilee Greenway passes this way (or will do, once HRH passes the magic 60). There are also regular clusters of wedge-shaped stone blocks, each carved with the letters "AOD" and a number (e.g. 9.83 or 10.01) which is, presumably, some sort of distance from somewhere. Down on the West Ham stretch these gleaming white blocks have already proven not to be graffiti-proof, which appears to be asking for trouble.

View Tube, March 2010And there's something more up here that I haven't seen in quite such large numbers before - tourists. There have always been a few interested folk staring at the stadium, occasionally large family groups, even the odd tour party. Now these tour parties are more numerous, as Blue Badge Guides take advantage of public interest and earn cash in return for imparting Olympic information. On Sunday afternoon there were two overflowing clusters of well-wrapped visitors, a small but appropriate distance apart, as their leaders pointed at a lot of buildings and explained the future use of each. I had wanted to take a decent photo of the stadium but these groups had nabbed the best viewing spots, and no amount of waiting seemed to tempt them to disperse. Instead I followed the smell of bacon into the View Tube cafe (also very busy), and failed to get a photo from the locked first floor viewing gallery. [new View Tube website]

A major transformation has occurred in the Lower Lea Valley over the last 2½ years, and there's far more to come over the next 2½. From a backwater everyone could visit but nobody did, to a construction fortress nobody can visit but anybody can watch, to a world stage a handful can visit but everybody will see. Come look.

» Photos - stadium; lighting tower; sewer pipes; cranes; demolished Lesney Matchbox factory

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