diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Sorry about yesterday. The server supporting my comments system failed, causing nasty database collapses and making it very hard for pages to load. It's all fixed now, thanks Kirk, although normality may take a little longer to return.

London 2012  Around the post-Olympic Park
  c) Leyton Road to the Bow Roundabout
  15 more photographs here; map here

Westfield's car parks may have reopened, but pedestrians approaching from the east still get a mighty raw deal. Whereas cars and buses can enter direct up Penny Brookes Street, those on foot aren't officially allowed through because there's a brief "dangerous" section past a narrow gateway. It looks easy enough to fix, if anybody cared, but instead the official diversion starts from a painted silhouette further down the road. This backroad used to be the queue for vehicle search, but now it's a lonely walkway round the back of the last remaining empty tent. Westfield's shops aren't far off, but there's a railway in the way so the diversion heads back, and then up a lengthy zigzag to a point less than a hundred yards from the original blockage. Honestly, what were they thinking?

One day this'll be the edge of the East Village - a housing mountain whose sales website is all superficial froth rather than specific detail. But if you want Waitrose and M&S on your doorstep, where better? We're approaching via the shops' backsides, where all the lorries park out of sight to disgorge their cargo. The bus station's open again, too big for the handful of services currently starting here, and still a really depressing place to wait. At least it has more passengers than Stratford International station, which peaked during the Games (athletes, badge traders, Javelin) but once again resembles a ghost town. On the DLR piazza, the Olympic covers have come down revealing the athletes' welcoming ceremony space beyond. And in the cavernous High Speed ticket hall, it seems nobody wants to travel to central London in six minutes any more, not now it costs a fiver. At the coffee shop a member of staff is sticking a sign in the window to warn that "seating is for customers only", except there are no customers, nor sign of any arriving. Stratford International? Alas, not any more.

It was around here that, for the first time ever, I spotted an unattended open door in the security fence. I could easily have wandered through, pressed deeper into the site, even set off a controlled nuclear device, now nobody cares any more. Rather more hi-vis sentinels are waiting at the end of "Olympic Park Avenue" to stop drivers exiting Westfield from deviating into the heart of the Park. It'll be a mega-junction this, eventually, but for now it's a dual carriageway dog leg where walking's discouraged. We're at the John Lewis end of the shopping centre, which is a good excuse to nip up to the third floor to see how the Olympic firesale is going. The shelves are still stacked high, though with a reduced range of merchandise. There are cut-price oven gloves and tea towels aplenty, and plastic Mandevilles reduced to clear, and a heck of a lot of model taxis, and a wall of as yet unclaimed keyrings. Unsurprisingly the £10 metal fish and chip forks still haven't sold out. But I'd say that less than half of the shop's contents have been reduced in price, which is impressive, because as yet there's no sign of the public losing interest in buying.

You're free to walk along the edge of the Olympic Park here, the former Stratford Gate entrance, where row upon row of empty white tents await the call for someone to come and take them down. LOCOG have three weeks to get rid, before they officially hand over the Park's infrastructure to the London Legacy Development Corporation. There's no point in crossing the road here now - apart from mild nostalgia - so the central reservation is being replanted with earth and trees, and all the pedestrian crossings have been covered up. Two huge magenta signs remain to direct non-existent spectators to nearby stations, but the sponsors' pavilions have almost disappeared, off to whichever global shindig they're needed at next.

The reopening of Montfichet Road is good news for Blue Badge Guides running Olympic tours. Over the summer they've been reduced to meandering through housing estates, but now they can guide their sightseeing flock up this ramped street for a close-up Park view. We're bang opposite the Aquatic Centre here, its grassy nose nudging out into a swiftly-cleared hinterland. The exterior paint job has been tarnished now someone's peeled the logos off the end wall, but not to mind, those winged grandstands are going soon. I eavesdropped as one guide told her group all about the Orbit and waved a laminated photo she'd taken at the top. They listened intently, but could only gawp across at its twisting steel summit and the mighty stadium beyond. A few brief weeks and they're once again out of public circulation, back to 'look but don't touch', as the great Olympic lockout continues.

Warton Road's security barrier has gone, thank goodness, so shoppers (and bus passengers) can now enter Westfield without being beckoned over for inspection. The Greenway footbridge remains, for now, although the pedestrian crossing beneath has been blocked off in case it disturbs traffic too much. The Greenway Gate didn't take long to disappear, now an empty space watched over by two bored-looking security bods. And as for Stratford High Street, the final stretch of this six mile circumnavigation, that continues its transformation into mismatched urban highrise. The curved wooden tower at Dane's Yard lights up at night, and will probably be mistaken by future tourists for the Olympic cauldron. Wherever you can see a space it's a sure bet some developer has their sights on squeezing in more flats, as the Games' transforming effect ripples outwards. The Olympic Park's peak moment may have passed, but the entire perimeter's in flux as inside slowly knits with outside. All change.

A circumnavigation of the post-Olympic Park
(There are 40 photographs altogether)

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jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

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