diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It was a lovely day on Sunday, so I went for a walk around the Olympic Park. Sorry, I do this far too often. I took several photos on the way. Sorry, I do this far too often. And now I'm going to tell you all about it, even though you're not really interested. Sorry, I do this far too often too. But until they let people back inside the Park again, what do you expect? At least the photos are very pretty this time, with a lot of watery reflections. I promise not to walk round again until at least 2013. Apologies.

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

Welcome once again to the Bow Roundabout. It's a year now since cyclist Svitlana Tereschenko met her death on the westbound approach, and her white ghost bike has been reinstated on the railings in memoriam. Brian Dorling's ghost bike languishes beyond McDonalds, moved out of the way (with permission) in the spring, but never moved back. Someone's finally got round to cutting back the vegetation on the ramp to the floating towpath, so it's less like a jungle down there. Half of the temporary security gate across the Lea has been removed, but not the locking bit alongside the towpath which may be here for the duration. And Crossrail are intruding more, having knocked down more of the industrial units over the right-hand wall, and filled in more of their cofferdam in the river with pebbles. With the ground strengthened they can start digging the Pudding Mill Portal underneath, but it'll be at least six years before you'll be able to follow.

Something about the weather is perfect - blue skies, no wind - so the surface of the river is as still as the proverbial millpond. Add in the total lack of green algae at this time of year, and conditions are just right for mirrorlike reflections. It's impossible to see the Olympic warm-up track over the fence, if indeed it's still there, and still impossible to walk up the ramp onto the Greenway. Everything to do with scanning machines was removed several weeks back, so now all that remains is an unnecessarily large expanse of concrete surrounded by razor wire. Allegedly public access will be returned to this strip of Greenway in December, possibly even the first weekend in December, but as yet there's no tangible evidence. Even the View Tube's website remains resolutely offline, offering no clues, but presumably they'll be serving up frothy coffee to post-Olympic tourists soon.

The sunlight rippling underneath the Greenway is as good as I've ever seen it, if sewage transference tubing can ever be deemed beautiful. Almost nobody's here, bar the occasional jogger and flurry of cyclists. The waterbus stop at Old Ford Lock lies empty, as it has done ever since Water Chariots went under, and there's no sign of any alternative provider nipping in to run a pleasureboat replacement. The lock itself is sealed off, pending off-season renovation, so the winter moorings just to the north are being well used. Woodsmoke belches from a small chimney aboard one characterful narrowboat, while well-wrapped diners on a pontoon across the river tuck into their fried breakfasts. There's still much to enjoy around here, even though the five ring circus has left town.

And it really has left. Previously this stretch of the riverbank was overshadowed by a line of stacked-high prefabs housing the London 2012 sponsor village, but that's now been entirely dismantled. Instead there's a perfectly clear view of the Olympic Stadium - the closest you can currently get to it - apart from the obligatory security fence and cameras. Since I was last here it's noticeable that almost everything temporary has gone, anything that might have held a TV studio, restaurant or backroom. This was the powerhouse of the commercial side of the Games, but all that now remains is a very long very empty space. This bit won't be part of the post-legacy park, it's just outside, and is destined to be built upon (eventually) for apartments. Enjoy the unobstructed view while you can... it'll last a year or two more, then disappear forever.

At White Post Lane the canoeists are out, fresh from the Eton Mission Rowing club, one group of four and one single sculler. I seem to remember there were once plans for Kings Yard alongside the Energy Centre to become an Olympic Museum once the Games were over, but I fear we can assume that's never going to happen. Again the outskirts of the Olympic Park beyond are blank, as are the entire interior hereabouts bar the permanent Copper Box. One particularly unnerving thing is the disappearance of the 500m-long strip of car parking along the opposite side of the fence. This was shoehorned into Olympic construction plans at the very last minute, despite the presence of a perfectly good multi-storey car park in the corner of the site, reputedly at the request of lazysod broadcasters NBC. Its 150 spaces were then barely used, and now there are diggers breaking them up because they were never meant to be here in the first place. If you're ever on a committee investigating London 2012 budgetary waste, I'd shine a torch here if I were you.

Turning right off the Lea onto the Eastway, that multi-storey by the International Broadcast Centre remains echoingly empty. The security tents have disappeared further along, and the Riverbank Arena where the hockey was held has been entirely dismantled. There's not much left of Dan Harris's ghost bike by the A12 junction, but his helmet, gloves and neckerchief have somehow survived the ravages of three months in the open. A more unlikely Olympic remnant is the sloping meadow by the Eton Manor gate, many of its flowers still blooming brightly even in mid-November, if a little worse for wear. Up here along the northern edge of the park a few temporary tents and grandstands are still to be removed, so a workforce is there right now doing just that. The East Marsh remains football-free for another season, now a vast abandoned coach park awaiting grassy restitution. Temple Mills Lane is starting to be used by construction traffic for the East Village, and for Westfield deliveries, but not yet by you and I. Meanwhile round the corner in Leyton you'd never know the Games had been and gone, bar some nicer pavements outside the tube station.

And that's only halfway. Sorry.

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