There are precisely five years to go until London's Olympic Opening Ceremony. Five years before a horde of choreographed schoolchildren cavort across the 2012 athletics track wearing primary-coloured t-shirts and waving ribbons. Let's hope the weather improves by then. But there's no Olympic Stadium in place yet, nor even a flat space on which to build one. The site in Marshgate Lane is still covered with warehouses, factories and dilapidated sheds. The one big difference this week is that they're all empty. Everybody who used to work here has now left (or been forcibly evicted), and the site has been handed over to the Olympic Delivery Authority and their big yellow bulldozers. Bang on schedule.
July has been a transition month in the Olympic Park. Last month any well-equipped terrorist could have driven a nuclear missile up Pudding Mill Lane and nobody would have noticed. Today they'd not be so fortunate. Every road entering to the Olympic Park has been blocked off by largemetalgates, and firmly locked. Dare to walk up to one of these gates, even unarmed, and a security guard will appear from the shadows and look you quizzically up and down. I got a very hard stare from the guard at the southern end of Marshgate Lane at the weekend, presumably because I was the first human being he'd seen that day. I didn't dare tell him that I'd already found a secret back entrance into the Olympic site, one that everyone appears to have overlooked, and that I didn't need to go through his poxy gate anyway. Ah yes, the southern gate to the Waterworks River footpath is still unlocked. Has nobody official noticed yet? Admittedly you'd need to be Indiana Jones to hack your way through the mega-undergrowth along this seriously overgrownfootpath, especially after the wet summer we've just endured, but any dedicated miscreant could still gain access to the heart of the Olympic building site if they so desired.
There remains one official footpath right through the middle of the Olympic Park, and that's the Greenway. Walkers won't be able to stray from the sewer-top path at any point, a big blue wall makes sure of that, but it's still possible to stand on a bridge above Marshgate Lane and gaze out across the soon-to-be demolished buildings [photo]. I intend to go back regularly and watch the view evolve, from industrial estate to levelled earthworks to gleaming international sporting hub. And, who knows, maybe I'll get a ticket to be back on site in 60 months time, beneath the fireworks, watching the flags of many nations parading around an athlete-packed arena. It's impossible to imagine at the moment, but this week marks the beginning of an unstoppable transformation.