The Olympic Park is finally reopening next month. Not all of it, only the northern bit for the time being, but that was the prettiest part anyway. A year after the Games began we're being allowed back in to wander freely amongst the riverside meadows... or at least we sort of are. The opening weekend will be a special event, the Open East Festival, for which tickets must be purchased in advance. This is to be a family-friendly festival organised in conjunction with the Barbican, and will feature musical acts, pop-up theatre, a real food festival and a "sustainable, up-cycled, vintage and contemporary" urban bazaar. Tickets cost £9.50 plus £2 processing fee, and are currently only available to residents of neighbouring boroughs and Barbican members, but go on general sale tomorrow. I'm going to give it a miss. I'd prefer to reacquaint myself with Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in a more peaceful manner, without bumping into slam poets and drumming workshops, which hopefully we'll be allowed to do freely on subsequent days.
There are a surprising number of other ways to get into the Olympic Park over the next eight weeks, which I've attempted to list below. Credit cards at the ready...
2 June Park In Progress: Today's the last day for taking a trip up the Orbit in a hard hat. Tickets still available. [£15] 6-9 June Global Champions Tour: This international showjumping shindig couldn't get its usual spot in Kensington Gardens so instead they're pitching up next to Westfield, where the security tents used to be. Arena and grandstands currently under construction. [weekday tickets from £10, weekend tickets from £60] 29-30 June Hard Rock Calling: Kasabian, Bruce Springsteen, The Black Crowes and Paul Weller are amongst those headlining. [£51.75 Saturday, £69.75 Sunday] 6 July The Summer Stampede: Next on the big stage are Mumford & Sons, backed by Vampire Weekend and Ben Howard. [£57.50] 12-14 July Wireless Festival: That'll be Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and a host of hip Radio-1-type acts hitting E20. Hyde Park residents must be delighted to be getting rid of this one. [1 day £83.50, 3 days £209.95] 20 July Electric Daisy Carnival: Dance the day away with AVICII and Tiësto, until the curfew chucks you out at 11pm. [£72.50] 26-28 July Anniversary Games: Back in the stadium again, one year on! A well known supermarket sponsors three days of IAAF Diamond League action and Paralympic echoes. [£12-£50] 27-28 July Open East Festival: A packed weekend of entertainment and activity, art and food. [£11.50] 29 July onwards Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: Open to the public at last, from 2pm. Come anytime, bring a picnic. [free]
Meanwhile, if you go down to the perimeter of the Olympic Park today...
• View from the Greenway: They still come to the sewertop overlooking the stadium to stand and stare. Not in such large numbers as before, indeed not in large numbers at all, but still they come. Foreign tourists and curious provincial visitors, plus Londoners strolling or biking through on the way to Hackney Wick. The stadium's still very visible across an increasingly empty void, with a run of lush green foliage marking the tree-lined banks of the City Mill River. Above all this rises the Orbit, imminently dormant, still some way off from being the international attraction planners hoped. And beyond that is the Aquatic Centre, finally shorn of its wings to reveal the sleek sinuous lines that Zaha Hadid planned all along. Still out of reach, the lot of them. Instead you'll have to make do with a coffee from the View Tube, or maybe buy some leftover 2012 souvenirs from the shop in the lime green containers outside. Or trek up the stairs to the viewing platform, which was the whole point of the View Tube in the first place, although I rarely see anyone else up there these days.
• Pudding Mill Lane station: Once a runty halt in the middle of nowhere much, this DLR station is changing fast. A brand new station is under construction to the south of the existing platforms, has been for a while, but construction is now speeding up. New PML's long concrete shell is nearly complete, with workmen adding final touches using big orange JCBs. Triple-width staircases run up to either platform, ideal for coping with the post-match exodus when West Ham move in nextdoor. The walls and canopies have yet to go in, and the lift towers are merely vacant shafts, but expect to be catching trains here some time next year. That'll allow the old station to be demolished to make way for Crossrail, which is due to rise up out of the ground nearby on its way to Stratford and Shenfield. There'll be no more fine views from the platforms, the new lot look rather more enclosed, but at least it'll be dry when the weather's blasting horizontal.
• Stratford International: It can't be long now before the barriers out the back of the station are whisked away and the East Village is opened up. This used to be the Athletes Village, but they've been busy adding proper kitchens over the last nine months and this could soon be your home. A whole network of roads lies ready for use, big and broad in a future-proofed way, with what looks like too many sets of traffic lights for the early years. Direct bus services are imminent too, indeed they were due to have started already, but for the time being the bus stops stand empty... and will likely remain so for some time.
• John Lewis Olympic Shop: Every time I venture to Westfield to see if the Olympic Shop has closed down yet, I'm surprised to see it hasn't. John Lewis must still deem it worthwhile to lure punters into their top floor viewing gallery, or else there's still money to be made out of the last of the merchandise. But the choice is thinning fast. If you want a rucksack you're in luck, because they appear to be the hardest-to-shift item. Black ones, blue ones, especially kid-friendly Wenlock-shaped ones, cover a couple of walls. £2 gets you a 2012 logo badge, now only available in white, while it's £4.49 for a blue and pink Union Jack "folding sit mat". A lot of branded umbrellas remain up for grabs, it's £7.50 for those, while it's no surprise to see the last of the wallet-sized fish and chip forks still going strong for £2.50. A few pricing decisions baffle, like selling off Time Out mini-guides to London 2012 for £5.62, but if your kids want togging up in Team GB clothing, best get here fast. Or any time, because there appears to be no rush.
• Waterden Road: It's now possible to drive a car through the northern Olympic Park, because Waterden Road has recently reopened especially for those who want to drive from the A12 to Westfield. Alas they're not allowing anyone on foot through yet, nor cyclists, but once QEOP opens we'll all be allowed back down again. Having visited the junction where Waterden Road links to the Eastway and the A12, all I can say is that it's currently horrifically pedestrian-unfriendly, and I wouldn't want to ride a bike here either. Here's hoping the final plans allow for a more accessible approach to the north of the park, rather than creating a swirling funnel aimed at prioritising traffic.
What's on this weekend? Spring Into Summer Saturday 30 & Sunday 31 May
40 free guided London walks. Purley Festival Friday 29 - Sunday 5 June
Bunting week, below Croydon. E17 Art Trail Sat 30th May - Sun 14th June
250 arty Walthamstow things.