diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 13, 2003

Famous places within 15 minutes walk of my house
Number 2012 - The Olympic Stadium i

olympicsideOK, so this may look like the same old photograph of the run-down Big Breakfast house that I've shown you before, and indeed it is, but what's new is that London's Olympic Stadium is now planned to be built less than a javelin's throw away on the other side of that row of trees. It's all bloody exciting, for us locals at least. This redevelopment depends on London actually being selected by the IOC as the winning host city for the 2012 Games, of course, but detailed new proposals announced this week bring that dream a little closer to reality. And much closer to my house.

Plans for London's Olympic bid have been a little sketchy up until now, with plans for a stadium sort of near Hackney Wick, upriver from Stratford-ish, in that run-down bit of East London probably. This week the plans are revealed in their full geographical splendour, and the proposed site for the stadium shifts half a mile south from (just) Hackney into (nearly) Bow, much nearer to major transport links. The new site is currently bleak industrial land, surrounded on three sides by the Bow Back Rivers, which apparently makes the area pretty secure from international terrorist attack. You can view a fine and detailed map showing the Olympic regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley here, whether you're an international terrorist or not.

warming upTo your right is another photograph showing the heart of the proposed Olympic zone. This is the Greenway, a footpath slicing through East London atop the legendary Northern Outfall Sewer. Today a tree-lined haven for local wildlife, tomorrow the focal point of global consciousness (maybe - terms and conditions apply). Just to the right of the photo will be the warm-up tracks where the world's finest athletes will prepare for their few seconds in the spotlight. And just to the left, opening ceremonies, Olympic flames, 100m finals, track and field, drug scandals, medal ceremonies, marathon finishes and 100% total history. Bloody hard to picture it all at the moment, though.

The eighty-thousand-seater stadium will be at the heart of a compact area full of top Olympic facilities. Three indoor sports arenas will replace the Hackney Greyhound Stadium, and there'll also be a new all-weather tennis complex, hockey complex and velodrome. A huge aquatic centre (complete with Olympic-sized swimming pool, naturally) will be constructed close to Stratford town centre - this no matter whether the Olympic bid is successful or not. And the athletes' village will be built just to the north of the new Stratford International Eurostar station, leaving a legacy of 17000 homes for local residents after the Games have gone. Let's hope they're sports fans, otherwise all these fantastic state-of-the-art facilities will go stale pretty fast afterwards.

press centreThis miserable bunch of warehouses close to the Bow Flyover is scheduled to become home to the entire world's media throughout that extra-special Olympic fortnight. There'll be a huge International Broadcast Centre located here plus an only-slightly-less-huge Press Centre, both less than 5 minutes walk from my house. To think, I might catch Sue Barker nibbling a McChicken sandwich in the drive-thru by the roundabout, or bump into the Bolivian equivalent of Gary Lineker buying deodorant in the nearby 24 hour Tesco. I'll have the perfect Grandstand view.

To find out more about all these proposals, complete with more pretty maps, take a look at the official website for London's 2012 bid, or click through the masterplan for the regeneration of the Lower Lea valley. Alas, all of these fine five-ringed dreams remain at the planning stage at the moment, and many of the proposals may never come to pass. But there seems to be an unstoppable political will to make sure that something happens round here in East London, even if the Olympics don't. So, I'd like to thank all of you out there in the rest of the country for your imminent generosity in pouring millions of pounds of taxpayers money into my community. We'll put on a good show for you, honest. Just give us a sporting chance.

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