post-Olympic update Around the Olympic Park
a) Bow Roundabout to Hackney Marshes
It's about nine months since the Olympics started, seven since the Paralympics ended, and three and a bit until part of the Olympic Park reopens. Every excuse, I thought, for another walk round the outside of the Olympic Park. I did this in July 2012, twice, then again at the end of September. Quite a lot's changed since then, and quite a lot still hasn't. I'll concentrate on the former in what follows...
Bow Roundabout: All looks much the same as before from the roadside, apart from a new billboard-in-the-sky next to the Bow Flyover. [photo] TfL haven't yet got round to building their Cycle Superhighway extension, and nobody's made any attempt whatsoever to start building hundreds of flats on the two cleared sites to the south of the roundabout. Maybe there's a recession on. [photo]
Crossrail: A short way up the Lea towpath, just before the railway, the river artificially narrows. A few months ago this was a minor feature, a corrugated cofferdam filled with weed. Now it's a major hole, emptied of water and filled with aggregate, connected to the main Crossrail worksite over the wall via scaffolding [photo]. This is the precise spot where superfast trains will dip into tunnel all the way to Paddington, if you can wait five years, which you'll have to. All credit to Crossrail for keeping the towpath open, so far, throughout. [photo]
Greenway: Post-Olympics, rather than 24-hour access, the Greenway past the Olympic Stadium is only unlocked for public use between 7am and 7pm. Some of it's still green, but there's a nasty blank stretch where the Victoria Gate security zone used to be, and no sign as yet of anyone willing to unconcrete it. [photo]
Old Ford Lock: Or still "Fish Island Riviera", as the banner hanging from the side of Forman's salmon smokery has it. Nobody's got round to taking it down, nor removing the stash of hospitality palm trees clustered forlornly by the waterside [photo]. Here too are moored a pair of redundant Water Chariots, including the inaugural Chloe Jean, recently removed from sale "until clarification of ownership has been obtained". Spring 2013 has dawned with no sign of any pleasureboat legacy on the Lower Lea whatsoever, another pre-Olympic pledge lost, another boost to the local economy sunk without trace.
Cafe culture: For more Shoreditch haircuts than you can wave a tablet at, visit the banks of the Lea on a Sunday. They eat brunch on the back terrace at the Counter Cafe, in greater numbers than before, and they sit outside The White Building with beers in hand from the craft brewery within. This area really is changing, as the creative quarter solidifies and edges closer to the magnet of the Olympic Park [photo]. But the latest refreshment outlet is nothing quite so hip. The E20 Eastenders Fishing Trust have opened up a tiny room in a waterways lockup beside Old Ford Lock, from which they're running a angling charity for the disabled and selling drinks. Tea or coffee for a quid, slice of cake 50p, or bread and soup for £2. Nothing highbrow, but for a good cause. [photo]
Olympic Park West: The Olympic backstage area is plainly visible through the security fence, long cleared of hospitality and crates of mineral water, now home to JCBs and scattered building materials. Vans trundle by, fresh gabion walls are being built, and pedestrian "safe routes" slink through the nothingness. You might be looking forward to getting back inside Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the summer, but if any green bits survive they're far out of sight. [photo]
Media Centre: The ugly buildings where the world's media hid during the Games are being readied for rebirth as the iCITY 'digital quarter' [photo]. BT Sport and a data centre will be moving in, but don't expect any architects to rent office space inside because they'd have more taste than to work here. The exterior's been cleaned up since last summer, and the pointless last minute car park along the banks of the Lea ripped up to be returned to grass. But nothing's yet manifested within, and the huge multi-storey car park overlooking the Eastway looks more barren than I've seen it at any time in the last year.
Waterden Road: It used to be the main road north, then it became the main pedestrian walkway to the Olympic hockey, and soon it'll be a proper road again. Major work is underway to create a fresh entrance to QEOP next to where the hockey arena now completely isn't, with a forest of traffic lights in place ready for the steady stream of vehicles who want instant access to Westfield [photo]. Shoppers in cars currently follow a twisty path to the shops, but that'll soon change as the top of the Park opens up. The great E20 disconnect is finally nearly over.
Eton Manor Gate: A month after the Games I was well chuffed to discover the slopes at the northern exit to the Olympic Park still bursting with vibrant meadow flowers. Alas, that display won't be repeated this year. Someone's stripped the banked beds of all vegetation, now with only a few dried stalks lying bereft across the artificial soil [photo]. Perhaps this is a key part of the plan to renew the area, or perhaps this is what happens after all the gardeners go home. Whatever, the northern edge of the park is undergoing the fastest most brutal clearance, with the Park's landscaped interior well hidden beyond.
Hackney Marshes: How long does it take to turn a coach park back to football pitches? Longer than I'd have thought. The East Marsh remains a sealed-off expanse of mud, with earth piled up in big heaps ready to spread back on top. They'd better hurry up and get the grass seed planted, else I'd not bet money on the new season kicking off here next autumn.