diamond geezer

 Saturday, May 15, 2010

StadiumWatch HA9: The last stragglers have arrived, the turnstile queues have passed through, and Wembley's exterior at last falls silent. The only fans out here on the podium are the unlucky, the curious and the ticket-free. They had their chance, from the anonymous touts mingling with the crowds before kick-off. Now even they have faded away, leaving the off bunch of gossiping policemen and an army of litterpickers in bright pink jackets. There's much to pick up - empty cans, discarded flyers, trodden-on chips. Below the arch, on the other side of the arena's curving glass, the Cup Final is underway. The steady roar rises in energetic peaks. A cheer, a chant, a sudden yell of mass shared ecstasy. Not quite enough screams for a goal yet, I think. But it's impossible to follow the match from the empty perimeter decks, nor do any of the few lost souls out here seem to care. Until the final whistle blows, Wembley is at peace.
posted 15:30

StadiumWatch N5: The transformation from football to flats is almost complete. At first glance, Arsenal's old stadium on Avenall Road looks much as before. A bold white fa├žade, with 'East Stand' written in Art Deco red across the front. But look closer, behind each scarlet-edged window, to spy one shoebox-sized apartment. Look, there's a bloke ironing, there's a wicker chair and lampshade, and there's a box of cereal in a tiny kitchen. The black doors at the front entrance open only to residents - the concierge sees to that. As for the North Stand that's long gone, replaced by bland glass galleries stacked to arena-height. The pitch survives relatively unscathed at the centre of the development, although dressed with tall geometric hedges and dubious bubbling water tanks. Newly installed owner-occupiers cross the hallowed turf, then nip along the Highbury touchline to buzz themselves out through the security gates. Where championships were won, now the suited lady from the Marketing Suite can offer you two bedrooms and a fitted shower. I'll pass, thanks. [photo]
posted 13:00

StadiumWatch E15: Early Saturday morning, and the Olympic Park building site is already a hive of activity. A parade of lorries rumbles along the western ring road, interspersed with bendy buses taking folk to work. The stadium stands tall, its spiky white crown glinting in the sunlight. Between every lighting tower a thin metal staircase launches into the air above the grandstand to allow easy access to something unseen above the arena. Through a gap in the exterior, fluorescent men can be seen scuttling along seatless terraces. Outside, orange diggers are piling up earth to form new level surfaces, perched precariously on top of their freshly-scooped plateaus. Even three years on from the start of demolition, the contours of the landscape continue to be transformed. Up on the Greenway, with the yellowbox cafe not yet open for the day, every view of the stadium is obscured. Not just along the razorfence bridge, but now temporary metal barriers block the View Tube's infant shrubberies. Don't get too close, the stadium's unspoken message, I'm not ready to welcome the public just yet. [photo]

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