diamond geezer

 Monday, July 23, 2012

London 2012  London 2012 - 4 days to go
  Postcards from the pre-Olympics
  21 photographs here; map here

Stratford: DLR stations are normally unstaffed, but from this weekend at certain stations that's changed. Any platform which might be deemed even vaguely close to an Olympic venue is now staffed, indeed overstaffed, by an unexpectedly large number of hired souls in yellow hi-vis jackets. Next weekend they'll be dead useful, as scores of visitors new to East London try to work out whether S'ford International and W'wich Arsenal might be places they need to go. This weekend, however, their presence looks like overkill. Yesterday afternoon each of the DLR platforms at Stratford (Low Level) boasted six members of staff - one busy, one being trained, and four standing around like lemons thinking "well, at least I'm getting paid for this". Should you encounter one of these temporary ambassadors looking doleful do please go and ask them a question, even if you already know the answer, because it might make them feel worthwhile.

Stratford International: It's usually a quiet corner of town, but passengers emerging from the DLR recently have been subject to the occasional blaring national anthem. The Athletes Village is just over the fence, screened by a single strip of magenta fabric, more specifically the green piazza where the arrival of each competing country's national team is celebrated. A flag is raised, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brings a tear to the eye of the assembled athletes. They recorded 205 separate national anthems in advance of the Games, and for many less successful countries this may the only outing the resulting master tape gets.

Stratford Gate: The borderline between Westfield and the Olympic Park remains blurred, and very busy. The public aren't yet allowed through security, but scores of Games workers and volunteers need access, so it's possible to get really quite close to the edge of the action before a barrier stops you. It's the new place to have your photo taken - either with the five-ringed Aquatics Centre in the background, or perhaps even posing with a friendly armed policeman. Tucked up in the far corner is the only ticket box office for the entire London 2012 operation. If you need to collect some tickets you need to turn up here, and join the queue, and try not to hassle the staff because they've been on the end of enough Ticketmaster-related woe as it is. But sorry, you can't buy any tickets here, you can still only do that online.

Westfield: The London 2012 shop on the third floor at John Lewis is finally busy. Many of the visitors are from London, many are tourists, but a considerable number are the athletes themselves and their supporting staff. At most Games they get housed miles from nowhere, but here they're billeted right next to a major shopping mall and seemingly loving it. Yesterday afternoon a team coach from Argentina stood aside to let me walk onto the escalator ahead of him - it's amazing how much you can read off the the security badges dangling from every Games participant's neck.

The Last Mile: This weekend it's been the turn of "Spectator Assistance" to receive their final training. These are the folk who'll guide you from station, cycle park or walkway to the security tent at your venue, and they're there basically to ensure you don't get lost. There are hundreds of them, again probably far too many, but better that than too few. I've seen them swarming through the flowerbeds beside the Greenway Gate, or standing in big clumps on the sewertop at the Victoria Gate. The minions get pink tabards, whereas those worn by their supervisors have a slightly more important-looking purple upper half. And everybody has a number on their back, be that 499 or 1686 or whatever, which I guess is a teensy bit like being an athlete but rather less uplifting.

Victoria Park: Are you cycling to the Olympics? I hope so, otherwise organisers have wasted their time constructing the most enormous cycle park in the southeast corner of Victoria Park. A huge area has been cordoned off and filled with bike racks... if you call a series of parallel metal barriers a bike rack. By my calculations there are at least ten rows of a hundred spaces - room for a thousand cyclists to park their steeds - and a temporary marquee alongside for administration purposes. From here it's a half mile walk to the Olympic Park's Victoria Gate, or considerably less if you're only going to the Live Site across the grass.

North Greenwich: Meanwhile, south of the river, the transformation of The O2 into the North Greenwich Arena is almost complete. All mention of the mobile phone overlords is being removed, at least within the venue itself, although a string of flags outside still proclaim the very non-Olympic sponsors of Nestlé, Stella Artois and Sky. Those who'd booked to go climbing over the Dome had picked a gorgeous day for it - always a gamble when you've paid £25 in advance. And down the road in Central Park, at least for this weekend, has been an inflatable Stonehenge. It's the ultimate bouncy castle, designed by Jeremy Deller as part of the London 2012 Festival, and earned the odd gasp from passengers on the 108 bus as it sped past. The bouncy megaliths have been to Glasgow, Cornwall and Wales, and are spending the next three weeks visiting various green spaces all around London. If you have small kids check the list and get there early - from what I've seen they'll love it.

And some other photos of interest...
Pictograms: Appearing now on walls and surfaces all across London.
Greenway Gate: The view down from the temporary footbridge - now open again.
Dog relief: It seems there's a magenta sign for everything!
Games Lane: Due for activation on Wednesday, then God help us.
Fish Island Riviera: The palm trees are in, and the beach volleyball court has been laid.
The Walls Have Ears: The Bread Collective's line of murals along White Post Lane is now complete, and lovely.
Stadium view: Tiny statues look out from the towpath at the end of the Hertford Union Canal.

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