diamond geezer

 Monday, October 01, 2012

I know you stopped thinking about London 2012 three weeks ago. But some of us still live round here, and the legacy of the Games isn't going to go away. So I've been for yet another walk round the outside of the Olympic Park, clockwise from the Bow Roundabout, as East End life sort-of gets back to normal.

London 2012  Around the post-Olympic Park
  a) Bow Roundabout to Eastway
  14 photographs here; map here

Olympic Park ahoy. It's nearly a year since Brian Dorling was knocked off his bike and killed at the Bow Roundabout. His commemorative ghost bike used to be locked to the traffic lights, but TfL moved it up the road (with permission) when they last retweaked the junction. It's still there, just past McDonalds, looking sadder than ever now all the replacement flowers have finally died (and sadly there's no sign of anyone shifting it back by the lights where it belongs). Good news for cyclists across the road - the towpath alongside the Lea is open again, and has been since the day after the Games closed. Nobody's yet removed the gate which blocked the river to all traffic, merely floated it back against the bank, but presumably it'll disappear eventually. Crossrail have restarted construction of the Pudding Mill Portal, digging their big hole just over the wall. The river now narrows at this point, for strengthening purposes, thanks to a metal-lined algae-filled cofferdam.

It's lovely to be back walking along the riverside. Everything's still lush and green at summer's end, with blackberries bursting through the gaps in the spiky pre-Olympic security fence. The occasional jogger pants by, a couple of moorhens splash and squawk, and familiar shapes rise up above the foliage. They'll be clearing out inside that stadium now, in readiness for who knows what, while the Orbit gets mothballed until paying customers eventually return. At the Greenway a pleasant surprise, as the ramp up to the sewertop is unexpectedly open. No access at the top, however, while workmen busy themselves with clearing away all trace of the Victoria Gate. They're moving poles, and dismantling tents, leaving the odd chair still to be collected as the security theatre vanishes. It'll be a while before full access to the Greenway returns, some say December, but it's good to get even partially back again.

There's no action at the waterbus stop, long since abandoned by dodgy chancers Water Chariots. Across the river at Swan Wharf, some painted words on a wall and a few wooden trestles are all that remain of The Fringe. This "pop-up entertainment and hospitality club" was hoping to lure in moneyed bacchanalians during the Games, but its Twitter account petered out before the first closing ceremony so I assume it failed to meet expectations. Past Old Ford Lock the salmon-painted Fish Island Riviera shines even brighter. They've cleared the carpark of luxury portacabins now, but one wonders if their Olympic business model survived the Telegraph's utterly damning restaurant review.

Look past the old Big Breakfast House and the stadium still looms - so close from here, yet a world of memories away. All the temporary backrooms and Prestige pavilions are being taken away, slowly, gradually, with workmen busy even on a Saturday morning. What's missing are the security guards, previously ubiquitous, but reduced to a skeleton staff now it doesn't matter whether Tower Hamlets gets bombed or not. Onward past several narrowboats, most moored, others afloat. One appears to double up as a coffee shop, advertising flat whites and long blacks on a lateral chalkboard, but it doesn't hang around long enough to serve anyone.

White Post Lane won't be reopening fully for at least another year. A bloke in a hi-vis stands guard at one end of the bridge, letting only workmen pass, his security badge reading 'Reinstatement'. He's trying to give two elderly cyclists directions to the View Tube, and seems surprised when I warn him it's not open for another two months. The road beyond the barrier is that which ferried umpteen buses across the middle of the Olympic Park, if you remember seeing that when you visited. The copper tower of the Energy Centre rises alongside, with a somewhat unexpected black door leading out directly onto the towpath. And that's the backside of the Copper Box, where you might have watched handball or goalball, and which reopens next summer as as the non-thrillingly-named Multi-Use Arena. A new pedestrian footbridge is already half complete, linking via Wallis Road to Hackney Wick station... if only that had been open this summer, how convenient would that have been?

At Hackney Wick the Lea opens up along an arrow-straight channel. Peering through the Olympic security fence, this edge of the park is mostly tarmac. A lengthy linear car park has appeared, at the very last minute before the Games, squeezing in hundreds of numbered parking spaces in lieu of parkland. Apparently these were added at the request of American broadcasters NBC who didn't fancy using the appointed multi-storey round the corner, but then barely used these additional spaces either. What an appalling waste of money, and an entirely unnecessary peripheral eyesore. Peer further across the hardstanding and two temporary structures are still clearly seen - one the marshmallow-like Basketball Arena, the other the red/white rooftop panels of the Well Known Fizzy Drink Beatbox. There's clearly a heck of a lot of 'reinstatement' still to go before the acres beyond are reborn as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in ten months time.

You have to feel sorry for the inhabitants of Leabank Square, whose lowrise flats face out across the river from the Hackney banks. They've made a big effort to beautify their side, but the opposite panorama is unalloyed architectural horror. Green slopes were removed so that the International Broadcast Centre could be built, a bland panelled behemoth that's due to live on after the Games as a tech hub. For their sins, the even uglier catering block was dumped in front of Leabank Square's windows, although hopefully that's temporary. You'd think they'd have have lots to complain about, but I see the blog address daubed on the riverbank has now been painted over, and the blog itself appears to have gone into passive hiatus back in July. Eastway ahead, more tomorrow.

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