You'd have been hard pushed to drag a TV camera to Marshgate Lane a decade ago, not unless it was for Crimewatch, or if the Big Breakfast were doing a slightly-outside broadcast. But in precisely two years' time the eyes of the world will alight on this former trading estate, since magically transformed, to view the greatest sporting event on the planet. To a local resident like me, it still scarcely seems credible. A few votes in a hotel conference room in Singapore made the difference, diverting billions of pounds into the regeneration of the forgotten end of London. They'll be breaking world records on the shopfloor of the net curtain warehouse come 2012, and living in shoeboxes on the Fed Ex depot by the end of the decade. (Prepare to read lots of opening paragraphs like this all around the media before today is out)
Look, the Olympic Stadium's alreadycomplete. Structurally, that is - the fixtures and fittings still have another twelve months to go. Those spiky floodlights will be illuminated for the first time before Christmas, which'll be a sight to see for those of us who spend our winters milling around the Bow Flyover. Then once the environmentally-friendly toilets and running track are in place, the arena will be hosting test events to check that everything works properly. It wouldn't surprise me if the first test event was in one year's time, a year before the opening ceremony, when some lucky folk will get to sit on the plastic seats and watch some matchstick sized athletes running around the circuit below. Say what you like about the 2012 Olympics, but there's surely no danger of any of the venues being delivered late.
There's a lot more to these building works than just the stadium. The Velodrome's cable-net roof is strung and ready, and the Siberian pine track is on its way. The Basketball Arena sprung up over a few weeks earlier in the spring, and its white rocklike exterior is already a intriguing landmark on the skyline. The Aquatic Centre's already been filled to check it doesn't leak, although there'll be fresh chlorinated water in there before the world's swimmers (and later Stratford's families) turn up. So many structures, all of whose progress is outlined in a milestone document just published by the Olympic Delivery Authority. A school, the park, a wheelchair tennis centre... everything's on target and (probably) under budget.
And best seen, at present, from the air. London 2012 have just released a series of aerial views of various Olympic buildings, tediously well-protected, but also amazingly detailed. Or maybe you'd prefer some homemade photos from quite high but not as far as a up helicopter. Did you spot that both of my previous two photos were taken from well above ground level? This one is too, obviously.
Because the best view of the Olympic Park is from one of the many apartment blocks around the perimeter. You're on-site all the time, watching the new global playground slowly emerging from the earth. You can stare out over the stadium every morning while you're nibbling your corn flakes. You're on first name terms with the entire Olympic cluster of venues before the rest of the world has even noticed. And one day, maybe, the world's TV companies will enter a bidding war to present a fortnight's TV coverage live from your living room. I got the chance to visit such an apartment earlier this month, so I took a few photographs for your delectation and delight. You may never get quite this close yourself, but in two years' time this will all look terribly familiar.
What's on this weekend? Spring Into Summer Saturday 30 & Sunday 31 May
40 free guided London walks. Purley Festival Friday 29 - Sunday 5 June
Bunting week, below Croydon. E17 Art Trail Sat 30th May - Sun 14th June
250 arty Walthamstow things.