diamond geezer

 Monday, August 13, 2012

London 2012  London 2012 - final day
  Postcards from around the Olympic Park
  (quick, while it still is) (sigh, was)

Bow: Across the Lea, the Olympic Stadium rises. It's been strange having it as a near neighbour over the last few years, even stranger seeing it brought so vividly to life. White and spiky by day, brightly lit by night, this former patch of industrial estate has hosted umpteen world records over the last fortnight. But it'll be a while before passengers on the upper deck of the number 25 bus catch sight of it. They're queueing at the roundabout, and they could be queueing for some time. All the lights were rephased before the Games to the advantage of the Olympics Lanes beyond, and seven seconds is all that traffic's from Bow's been rationed. The cars and buses and coaches wait patiently, while the police vans sit there with side doors open, the coppers inside tapping away bored on their phones. Three ladies are standing lost by McDonalds, trying to work out how on earth to get to Fish Island. They're clutching the official blue London tourist map, but this gives no clue that the A12 has no footpath and the parallel towpath is closed. I try to offer directions but it's a complicated route which I'm not sure they'll follow. Until the Olympic Park is stitched back into the local community in legacy phase, which may take some time, its 500 acres remain an impenetrable transport vacuum.

Victoria Gate: It's been the backdoor entrance to the Olympic Park, used by little more than a handful of spectators, but by mid Sunday afternoon it's been closed. The metal gates are locked, the volunteers have fled, and only a small number of G4S guards remain behind the wire. Here it's as if the Games have already finished and The Hiatus has begun, but that's not stopping people turning up. Dozens with Closing Ceremony tickets are here, having not read the instructions that came with their tickets, thinking they'd be able to gain access this way. Mistake. Previously there'd have been an excess of Games Makers standing around doing nothing, but now they're finally needed they're not here. One gloomy family with a Dad in a wheelchair are sat at the top of the Greenway looking very lost. Goodness knows how they got here in the first place, but suddenly they face the unwanted challenge of getting to the other side of the Park unaided. I step in, again, in the absence of official advice, to dissuade them from struggling to a distant station and instead to take the bus. Fingers crossed.

Fish Island: A young well-heeled crowd are walking through the streets of Fish Island. Smart sportswear, immaculate hair, the occasional whiff of Eastern European money. It looks at first like they might be heading to use the Water Chariots, where a couple of staff wait expectantly beside a small tent hoping for customers. Not so. Instead they turn off into the Fish Island Riviera, the salmon-based hospitality hotspot, for a glass of champagne and an ogle at the beach volleyball. Presumably none of them have read the Telegraph's damning one-star review of Forman's £75 breakfast, or they're so loaded they don't care. It's hard to miss the noise erupting from the Stadium across the water. Waterloo Sunset, then Elbow if I'm not very much mistaken, in what must be a run-through for the Closing Ceremony coming up later this evening. I'm excited when I hear Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill floating across the afternoon air, but will be less so later when it turns out she was only a recording. Still, the whole thing's a big warning to local residents of how loud it's going to be round here when West Ham turn over their new football ground to summer rock concerts.

Eastway: The world's media are getting ready to leave HQ. The final medals have been awarded, the last stories have been told, so it's time to start packing bags at the International Broadcast Centre. Having said that, all the shuttle buses pouring out of the car park appear to be empty. I have to wait for four to emerge before crossing the roadway, not a single passenger aboard. It's hard to comprehend the scale on which these single and double deckers have streamed round East London over the last three weeks, buses brought in from Brighton, Blaenavon and Dundee, delivering a not insignificant total of exhaust fumes to the local population. It was one of these buses, swinging on to the A12, which killed cyclist Dan Harris on his evening commute last week. A white ghost bike has appeared at the roadside, decorated with flowers and tributes and mementoes. It's heartbreaking to read the letters "To The Greatest Brother In the World" and "To Our Wonderful Special Boy" taped to the top of the tree. Those look like Dan's cycling gloves, and his helmet, and I think that's the same black and white checked neckerchief that he wore in the photo on the "A Bit About Me" page on his blog. A tragic and unnecessary loss, in such sharp contrast to Team GB's cycling's triumph in the Velodrome a brief ride away.

Stratford International: Westfield is rammed. It shouldn't even be open this late on a Sunday, but the Coalition's temporary relaxation of the Sunday Trading laws have allowed retail mayhem to break out. A lot of this is the fault of the Olympic athletes. They're going home tomorrow, so this is their last chance to pick up UK goods and souvenirs before they leave. Athletes in official tracksuits wander the mall clutching John Lewis carrier bags, or maybe a nice little number from Prada, before returning to the adjacent Olympic Village. Several are propping up the outdoor pop-up bars - there's Cuba, that's France, here's Montenegro. Come 8pm it'll be time to move on, as the shopping centre is flushed out before the Closing Ceremony. There's just time for some last minute pin-trading along the scrappy grass down the back of Mothercare, a final opportunity to swap that 1996 Atlanta Disney for a 2012 Samsung Umbrella. And later all these athletes will be trooping into the stadium to watch the Spice Girls reform, and Boris jive, and Rio samba, and the cauldron extinguish, and a battery of blazing fireworks light up the sky. And then that's it, everyone moves on, returns to their lives, and all that's left of London's third Olympic Games is a memory. But what a memory. Paralympic tickets at the ready, everyone.

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