Before the day turns there's just time to say, I remember the Olympics as if they were last year. As 2012 slips further away, soon all that'll left be left are the memories and the legacy that's left behind. You've not been back much, if at all, now that the global spotlight is elsewhere. But I keep going back, to keep an eye on what's changing, and here's my end-of-2013 update.
Olympic Stadium: No events are scheduled here next year, nor for most of the next, and West Ham aren't due to play until beyond that. Instead a transformation is underway, readying the interior for football, and of course athletics because that's really important. Recently removed are all the purple pods around the perimeter, that's where we bought our food and filled our water bottles the summer before last. No need for those in the new design, which will be a little more integrated, as it could already have been had the original design been different. The roof is the other thing that West Ham want changed. They won't sell season tickets if too many seats are exposed to the weather, so what's there has to come out and a wider brim constructed. Which means the view of the stadium on the skyline is changing, indeed has already changed, with the trademark crown shape already disappeared. December has seen all the floodlights removed, and the triangular struts to which they were attached taken down, creating what's suddenly a rather ordinary-looking structure. How quickly architectural retreat takes place, and how long before we discover what sponsor's name is to be slapped on the New Boleyn Ground. [stadium]
Pudding Mill Lane: Boris has one more station to open before the next Mayoral Election, and this is it. The DLR's feeblest halt lies slap bang in the path of Crossrail, so is to be replaced, and that replacement is almost ready. A long elevated concrete box has been constructed, hugely out of scale to the original, now almost completely clad with thin glass panels. Where the existing station has one central flight of stairs this has three to each platform, ideal for crowds departing from stadium fixtures and Park events, assuming they don't overwhelm the little train at the top. A whole new section of viaduct has been built, snaking off from the existing railway around the existing station through what's currently a building site. It won't be long before there's joined-up track, then several weekend closures are planned between now and Easter when the new station (hopefully) goes live. Expect the Mayor to visit just the once. [station][viaduct]
View from the Greenway: Four years ago the ODA transformed this sewer-top path into a high security corridor, erecting a electric fence plus CCTV to prevent any unauthorised egress. In particular a massive barrier went up along the bridge over Marshgate Lane, lest anyone sidle up to the edge and jump down and cause pre-Olympic havoc. That fence brought my series of "photos of the growth of the Olympic Stadium taken from exactly the same spot" to a premature close, long before the Greenway was sealed off, and has hung around since the Games for over a year. Now, hurrah, finally it's vanished, apart from one remaining turret like a prison watchtower. It's lovely to be back again, not just to reclaim the view, but also because it feels like normality being returned. It's not quite like that, obviously. Down below what used to be Marshgate Lane is now a new road, with new pavements, joining up with a new Loop Road with new pedestrian crossings. A whole new slice of infrastructure is waiting to be dusted off and linked to the existing road network, this section with the unlikely name of Stadium Crescent West. [bridgetop]
Look beyond and the southern half of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is being readied for public use. Those gardens we loved during the Games remain seemingly intact, and I must say looked great from afar during the full flush of autumn. The rest of the plaza may not be quite so thrilling, but there'll be a cafe, so that may be all some visitors need to keep you happy. There'll also be the Orbit, which still beams down light across Stratford each evening, and will be ready again next spring for paying customers. I'd pencil in the end of April, sort of Easter-ish, for the grand re-opening of this and the remainder of QEOP. I still have my doubts there'll be a flood of visitors. The world class view seen in Summer 2012 has been replaced by a building site, and I'm not sure an elevated view of the Bow Roundabout will command the £15 we paid then. A lot of what the first visitors will see is blank space - tracts of land used for Olympic backroom services cleared ready for housing, eventually, when the time is right. It'll be sometime in the 2020s before the surrounding panorama is mostly apartment blocks, but the Orbit's raison d'etre looks slightly shaky well before that.
Marsh Lane allotments: There was a furore, and rightly so, when the imposition of the Olympic Park eradicated a century-old patch of allotments. Manor Garden plotholders believed they held the land "in perpetuity", which turned out to be 2007, after which the land was razed and lowered to create the east Olympic Park riverside. Don't worry, said the ODA, we'll rehouse you elsewhere for a few years and reinstate the original site later. Alternative provision was provided for everyone in Leyton, at the foot of Marsh Lane, where a corner of the park was fenced off and divided into strips. Alas the soil was poor and the ground quickly waterlogged, and it took a second attempt before vaguely bearable growing conditions could be established. Head to Leyton Jubilee Park today and the alternative site remains, unheralded and unadorned, up a muddy track at the far end. Compared to the original site, which wasa delight, this has virtually zero character (apart from the original clubhouse/shed relocated just behind the gates). [shed]
And will the tenants be going back to Manor Garden? No they won't, plans for QEOP didn't allow it. Instead two separate sites within the Park were safeguarded, one to the north (at Eton Manor) and one to the south (near Pudding Mill Lane). The latter is now taking shape on the site of 2012's Greenway Gate, roughly where the security tents used to be, where a number of identical-looking wooden sheds have recently popped up. You can see them from the DLR, although you can't get close on foot at the moment, this is no Elysian paradise as yet. What's more disturbing is the fate of the proposed northern site. The London Legacy Development Corporation want to proceed, but Waltham Forest Council think otherwise and are blocking plans. "It's an absolute scandal that allotments are set to take pride of place in the country’s flagship sporting facility," said the council's leader in a stunningly intolerant turn of phrase back in October. Instead Waltham Forest have put forward alternative proposals to make the temporary Marsh Lane allotments permanent, leaving the council free to create an "urban meadow" at Eton Manor. If they succeed then we can chalk up another one for post-Olympic broken promises, but I hope the runner beans and marrows win out in the end.