As July gets closer, public access around the Olympic Park is being inexorably closed off [map]. Additional fences are going up, gates are clanging shut, and final cups of coffee are being served. Yes, it's the turn of the Greenway past the Olympic Stadium to be sealed off, with lockdown commencing at 8am tomorrow morning [photo]. If you want to get up close to the stadium you've only got today, after which any view will have to be from rather further away.
Part of me is very pleasantly surprised that they kept the Greenway open for so long. It runs right through the heart of the Olympic Park, with long-term building sites on either side, and yet some kind soul decided that the public would be permitted to retain access. Initially there were security guards with dogs posted here, then they threw up high metal fences and left electronic sentinels to do their job. At first the public barely came, just those of us who live round here and people cycling through. It took a cafe and observation deck in a stack of lime green containers to draw the wider population in [photo]. But by the end, on a typical weekend afternoon, you could barely move for inquisitive souls and tour parties corralled by Blue Badge Guides. A crowd by the map board, several families slurping drinks, even the occasional purchase at the London 2012 shop. Not any more.
The View Tube served its last bacon sandwich yesterday afternoon. They waved the final customer out onto the decking, locked the doors and then filed off to the kitchen for a last round of washing up. Somebody inside popped up to the observation deck for a zoom lens photo, one final opportunity to record the changes taking place a few hundred metres across the ring road [photo]. A small group of foreign tourists stood outside by the railings and pointed across at the Olympic panorama, while a mother sat patiently as her two small children let off steam. The View Tube's flowers were looking nice, especially those planted in the leftover canoe, although several beds look set to burst into bloom only after everyone's gone [photo]. And in the long metal shelter, half-shuttered, the London 2012 shop was closing down. Staff stood counting the leftover keyrings (yes, rather a lot) and packing their stock away into "Made in China" boxes [photo]. Then it was onto the trolley to be pushed carefully down the ramp, and under the railway, and forever off the site.
The mute security guards are still there at the bottom of that ramp. They've shifted position a few times over the years as the main road into the Olympic Park has been rerouted, but remain ever alert in case some Greenway pedestrian might veer off the zebra crossing and sneak into the park. Closing down the path tomorrow means the guards can finally leave their stations and go protect something more important instead. The new perimeter gate is already up and ready, a few feet to the north of the railway, and a favoured spot for rats from what I saw last night.
A short dead-end alleyway will remain beneath the arches, twisting round to Pudding Mill Lane DLR. This remains open until early July, and then suffers the same fate as the View Tube. It's all for the construction of the South Spectator Entrance and associated transport hub, which can now continue without interruption from an annoying public right of way. I'll recommend Pudding Mill's platform to you as the best remaining spot from which to view the Olympic Park, at least for the next eight weeks, but it's not as good as the Greenway panorama, sorry. The final backstage mega-prefabs will be erected unscrutinised, and the last spruce-up of the parklands will be unseen [photo]. You have 24 hours to get in and see what your taxes have paid for, unless of course you're fortunate enough to have tickets for the main event. Whatever, pencil in your next View Tube cappuccino for sometime around Christmas... assuming anyone's still interested in the aftermath of the Games by then.
Future closures » Saturday 19th May: The Greenway past the Olympic Stadium (reopens in December) (sheesh, a seven month closure, that's bad) » Tuesday 3rd July: The Lea Navigation Towpath from Hackney Marshes to the Bow Flyover (reopens 10th September) » Saturday 14th July: Pudding Mill Lane DLR (reopens 13th September)