diamond geezer

 Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In just nine days the public finally gains access to the Olympic Park. There'll then be photos aplenty of what the interior looks like (and, according to Ollie's advance shots, it looks spectacular). In the meantime I'm continuing and completing my walk around the perimeter, peering inside from outside.

London 2012  Around the Olympic Park
  b) Eton Manor to Bow Roundabout
  20 more photographs here; map here

Eton Manor: The northern edge of the Olympic Park has by far the best road access, with the A12 dual carriageway running alongside. Spectators using Park and Ride services will be entering this way, but otherwise this side's mainly for staff and officials. Dozens of shuttle buses are already running on a variety of routes, with three letter abbreviations on a sign in the window the only indication of where they're heading. Round here, that's probably the Northern Transport Mall on Hackney's East Marsh, which is the size of every bus station in London merged together and then some. At the moment most of Stagecoach's buses are running empty, occasionally with a few contractors on board in official London 2012 yellow tabards, but before long they'll be the backroom lifeblood of the Games.

Leyton: The extra pedestrian bridge over the railway on Ruckholt Road is now complete. But the High Road outside the tube station is still a complete mess, or was on Sunday, with half the pavements sealed off as well as direct access down to the Retail Park. Waltham Forest Council had better hurry up - the Olympic Flame is due on Saturday, and the world's coming soon after. Down at Drapers Field, throughflow is already brisk. Many of the people walking to and from this ex-recreation ground have official Olympic passes dangling from their necks, their names in black capitals flapping at approximately waist height. Some are accredited volunteers, some are security, others are simply going in to clean the athletes' rooms. When you see quite how many support staff the Games employ, it's a stark reminder of how many people are going to be out of a job in two months time.

Leyton Road: This road is closed. A pair of contractors stand beside a row of cones, waiting to speak to any driver who heads this way and then, if necessary, urge them to negotiate an awkward five point turn back the way they came. Local residents with passes have access, as do buses heading between Leyton and Stratford, but otherwise the road beyond is unusually silent. It's great for pedestrians - we'll continue to be allowed passage throughout the Games, so no bottleneck diversion via Maryland for us. The Olympic Workforce have their own pink-signed entrance to the Park alongside Wheeler's social club, leading to a main access point behind the Olympic Village. The Railway Tavern awaits thirsty post-shift drinkers, its fa├žade draped with a mixture of Union flags and official Newham Olympic bunting. Yet more vehicle screening is underway beyond the Westfield deliveries Check Point, increasingly more than a fortnight ago and set to ramp up further. You'll not see this side of the Games on television, but it remains crucial.

Stratford: Meridian Square feels busy even at the quietest times. They flood in from the old and the new shopping centres, they flood in from the station, and they queue for buses, taxis, coaches, Burger King, whatever. The space has been... some would say redeveloped, I'd say cleared, enhancing access in readiness for increased footfall. The coffee cart has gone, and all minor commercial detritus removed, but evangelists still prowl the piazza by the bike racks seeking souls to save for Jesus. The pedestrian crossing outside the Stratford Centre recently gained a countdown timer, which might seem friendly, but the lights have also been reprogrammed to allow traffic much longer gaps between red. For the duration of the Games Stratford station is the plaything of Lloyds TSB, who've covered every available surface with cartoons of smiling bank customers. As you queue for your Jubilee line escape this summer, at least give thanks its not Barclays looking down from everywhere.

Carpenters Estate: For an estate so close to the heart of Stratford, the Carpenters Estate is almost entirely off-radar. There's no through traffic, only winding backroads and plazas and grassy patches tucked away along the railway. It's one of Newham's poorest estates, comprising three 22-storey tower blocks and umpteen streets of lowrise brick tedium. The Games have provided some perks - the BBC's main 2012 studio is on top of Lund Point while Al Jazeera has a jazzy studio atop Dennison Point. But the council have their eye on the whole estate for comprehensive redevelopment. Soon after Huw Edwards has left the building the last few highrise residents will be moved out and the tower blocks summarily demolished. Relocation's been underway for a while, not that the estate community is unanimous in wanting to leave because there'll likely not be room for them once the replacement flats are erected. Newbuild blocks along Warton Road are already taken by better-off incomers, piled into a different kind of uninspiring cuboid, as the influence of the Games transforms the Park fringe forever. Knocked up in the Sixties, knocked down in the Teens.

Stratford High Street: The Games Lanes are prepared, the temporary signage is in place and the "Oi! Keep out!" messages are about to be uncovered. A lot of money has been spent upgrading Stratford High Street over the last few years - from artery to boulevard - all now with broad highways and pavements to match. A lot of the Games Family will be arriving this way, with the Southern Transport Mall for the less important and the direct route up Marshgate Lane for VIPs. Tesco have left it until the very last minute to squeeze in an Express store beneath the tallest apartment block. This opens Friday, poised first to sell convenience foods to Olympic spectators then to serve a captive audience of residents stacked above. Meanwhile residents of Blaker Road are having to put up with mandatory vehicles checks every time they drive home, every day for the next several weeks. Pudding Mill Lane DLR is very closed, so magenta signs direct would-be passengers to a station that's not on the same line, because that'll do, not because it's likely to be convenient. And look, we're back at the Bow Roundabout again, another Olympic circumnavigation complete. Flags aloft, jams ahoy, batten down the hatches.

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