Those of you who don't live within a mile of the Olympic Stadium might have been wondering what's been happening around Planet 2012 recently. Apart from the scandalous re-routing of the marathon, that is. You will, therefore, be very interested by what follows. Should that not be the case, please go and watch some videos of kittens instead.
The Olympic Stadium: This looks pretty much as it did a few months ago, to be honest, at least from the outside. Construction work continues apace inside, and especially underneath, to ensure the athletes have somewhere to change and shower and chat to TV commentators. But the external view hasn't changed, neither will it in future in quite the way originally intended. You may remember that there were plans to encase the outside of the stadium inside a giant fabric 'wrap'. Not any more. The wrap has been scrapped, following discussions with the government department responsible, "because we simply can't afford it". That's £7m saved, kerching, which may sound a lot but which represents an insignificant 0.07% off the Olympic budget. A cheapskate economy, I fear. It leaves the external skeleton of the stadium naked at Games time, which was never the architects' intention, and could also change the aerodynamics around the running track by no longer deflecting the wind. Don't worry says Seb, it'll all be fine really, and the rest of the world won't think London's stadium looks cheap and unfinished. Expect further cuts to Olympic window dressing as 2012 approaches. [webcam][different photo]
The ArcelorMittal Orbit: Or the 'Orbit', as most sane Londoners will eventually call it. This is the giant red observation tower to be built out of looping steel, and which it's hoped will draw tourists to the Park long after the Olympics are finished. It's had a remarkably rapid birth. Proposed in March, publicly consulted in April, planning permission sought in July, and now under construction. Just shows how quickly politicians can force through an idea if they're determined enough. Mayor Boris and Mr Mittal broke theground for the Orbit's foundations on Thursday, and it won't be long before the coiltrumpet's tentacles are creeping above the horizon. But not yet. It's impossible as yet to see anything from the sidelines, or indeed to work out which of the many cranes, diggers and piles of earth might be Orbit-related. Invisible for now maybe, but soon impossible to miss.
The Aquatics Centre: Tom Daley's pool is coming on a bit. The hole in the ground's been dug out, and has already been tested with water to check that it doesn't leak. The elegant swooping roof, resembling some new metallic flavour of Pringle, has been hovering alongside the main railway line for several months. But "saddle" isn't the Aquatic Centre's final shape, oh no. Now two huge wings are appearing, thrusting upwards on each side at a surprisingly steep angle. That'll be the seating going in, raked upwards on spindly scaffolding and rising to a height above the existing pool roof. You wouldn't want to sit up top at the moment, perched on a row of ten yellow plastic seats completely exposed to the elements. It all seems mighty precarious, and the back row looks a heck of a long way back from the action. But in 20 months time they'll be charging £20+ to sit up here, watching the ants splashing through the pool below, and squinting as tiny Tom plummets artistically into the water. [webcam]
The View Tube: Against all the odds, a café-cum-viewing platform in the middle of a building site is raking in the visitors. Even Pudding Mill Lane DLR station is suddenly busy, as inquisitive souls travel from miles around to see how the Olympic dream is taking place. The approach path beneath the railway has been partially diverted, again, adding an extra hairpin bend to negotiate. Visitors are already starting to take shortcuts across the patch of grass at the top of the ramp, which is rapidly turning into inelegant earth. Closer to the View Tube, the plants which flowered along the sewertop during the summer have either died back or been cut back, creating further muddy areas for public photographers to trample. But the atmosphere inside the lime green containers is rather more pleasant, especially if you like salmon bagels or chocolate brownies and the queue isn't too long. And the view from the upstairs balcony continues to reel them in. They point, they stare, and they try to match the weird structures on the horizon to the list of Olympic sports. It'll get easier.
Crossrail: I moaned earlier this year that the section of Greenway between the View Tube and Stratford High Street had been closed rather longer than it was supposed to. Repaving in readiness for Olympic footfall was completed in the spring, but then Crossrail took over and the barriers stayed shut. Now at last we have an official sign up offering a diversion, and confirming that the path won't reopen until "late 2014". Pah! Meanwhile all the warehouses along what used to be Barbers Road have been demolished, and the entire area between Pudding Mill Lane and the A12 covered with very flat concrete. A shallow U-shaped trench has already been dug backing onto the river, and this marks the edge of the eastern portal through which Crossrail trains will eventually emerge. It may take another eight years, but the tunnel to Paddington starts here.