diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 27, 2011

This time last year the ArcelorMittal Orbit was nothing but a glint in a planner's eye. Boris hadn't even announced the chosen design, let alone asked Londoners what they thought of a 115m observation tower made from a twisted coil of red steel. And now here it is, shooting up from ground level alongside the Olympic Stadium. Blimey, that's fast.

ArcelorMittal Orbit

To give you some idea of the speed of construction, Ollie snapped a similar photo a fortnight ago, and the tower's already twice as high as it was then. It's already visible above the rooftops from ground level when standing beside the Bow Flyover, and will be an unmissable object on the local skyline before very long. The official deadline for completion is the end of the year, although expect full height to be reached well before that.

The Orbit's latticework is being built from scrap metal forged in Luxembourg. Each beam is processed in Spain and France before being welded together into jigsaw pieces in Bolton and finally transported to London for assembly. Carbon neutral this process most definitely is not. [BBC London video]

Once an operating company has been appointed, and a ticket price set, the public should be allowed inside before the 2012 Opening Ceremony takes place. It's then hoped that the Orbit will draw in a million visitors a year, assuming tourists want to look down over West Ham's new stadium and the surrounding post-Olympic regeneration sites. But will we love it or hate it? At only nine hoops high, it's still too early to tell.

Photo: the Orbit stump beside the Olympic Stadium
Photo: the Orbit stump beside the Aquatic Centre

Further updates from Olympicland
Although not much has changed lately on the stadium's exterior, work now appears to have begun clearing up the land immediately outside. At ground level the plaza area is being scraped free of piled-up dirt, while a row of greenery and trees has been planted alongside the western bank of the City Mill River. Across on the eastern bank some heftier re-contouring is underway, creating waterside slopes in preparation for a larger area of landscaped planting. From building site to international panorama - the pre-Olympic wash and brush-up is underway.
We have further proof that the "Big Build" phase is pretty much complete. You know that London Concrete works that used to be next to the Greenway? The one they kept because building an Olympic Park takes a lot of concrete? Completely demolished, almost without trace. Next in this space - the warm-up track for limbering-up athletes.
• The timetable for Olympic test events has been revealed. The first one's mountain biking in July, while the first in the Park itself is Basketball in mid-August. Even if you don't get a ticket for the real thing, keep an eye on this list for a possible seat in the stadium, by the pool or wherever.
It's a pity the ViewTube doesn't seem to have a regular groundsman. Last summer two strips of flowerbed were fenced off outside, and lots of pretty shrubs and wild flowers planted. Alas the flowers are long dead, the wooden fencing's disappeared, and both are now patches of walked-on mud. One bed has a plaintive message saying "spring bulbs planted, please keep off" but it doesn't appear to be working. There's yet more mud on the corner of the Greenway where everyone keeps taking a shortcut, and another up the steep slope round the back of the kitchen. I hope the ViewTube's surrounds look better by the summer, but they're a right ugly mess at the moment.
Fancy a job at the Olympics in 2012? There'll be a hundred thousand up for grabs, so they estimate, and you can now express an interest at www.jobsforthegames.co.uk. Especially useful if you know you're likely to be unemployed in a year's time, I'd imagine.

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