diamond geezer

 Friday, March 21, 2014

post-Olympic update
Around the Park

So that was the cycling. But what else is going on around the Olympic Park, as the southern half prepares to reopen in a couple of weeks time. Answer - rather a lot. And sorry, I've just added 28 more photographs.

My 'QEOP Reopens' gallery
There are 45 photographs altogether

The Park: It's actually sort-of busy here in QEOP, if you come at the right time. A sunny mild weekend would be the right time, and we've just had a couple of those. Picknickers on the lawns, reclining couples on the decking, mates on bikes exploring the paths, and especially families massing around the adventure playground. Its climbing frames and water play are a huge hit when the weather's good, as is the cafe nextdoor with punters spilling out across the exterior tables.
I've been most impressed by the professional planting on the neighbouring ridge, formerly covered by wild flowers, now replaced by a host of golden daffodils. Glorious.

Access from the east: In a major leap of accessibility, it's now possible to walk directly from Westfield to the northeastern half of the Park without having to divert via the Copper Box. Take the newly-opened road beyond John Lewis (and the mammoth-ugly student tower), crossing High Speed 1 via a sleek arched bridge. The road ahead is Olympic Park Avenue, on the edge of what used to be the Athletes Village and is now the hard-sell East Village Residential Opportunity. It's characteristic of what a lot of the perimeter of QEOP will become - blocks of flats pushing right up against the park, with surrounding greenspace to boost the development's eco-credentials.
Soon you'll be able to enter the Park via the Waterglades, a leaf-shaped wetland opposite (and technically part of) the East Village development. But for now there's less glamorous access round the back of the Timber Lodge instead.

Access from the north: As yet there's still no direct route into the Park from Ruckholt Road or Hackney Marshes. The Leaside footpath currently stops at a barrier, and the major footbridge across to Eton Manor remains blocked. That leaves Waterden Road as the main entrance, this the processional route for cars heading to Westfield. If you're a bus, however, you can now use the new access road via the International Broadcast Centre. This is the mass collection of warehouses used by the media during the Games, now owned by iCity, and very recently rebranded as Here East. They hope it'll be "a campus that combines business, technology, media, education and data in the pursuit of innovation", but standing amid the grey ravine watching the BT Sport minibuses shuttling back to civilisation it currently looks a bit grim.
The 388 bus now pauses at iCity, rather than wasting valuable time running up the side of a multi-storey car park without pausing. There might even be some permanent bus stops soon.

Access from the west: Ooh, what's this? A brand new footbridge! Yes, a fresh link has been built at the end of Wallis Road, formerly a dead end inhabited by collectives and studios, now Hackney Wick's direct route into the Park. Suddenly their artistic backwater has Olympic connections, and even (blimey) a lift from ground to bridge level. That's not yet operational, but it is now possible, even popular, to walk up and across the Lea as a direct shortcut. You emerge up the side of the Copper Box, past a rare (but pretty) bed of colourful flowers. Or you can enter the old-fashioned way via White Post Lane, but it's great to have the choice.
A bit further down the Lea another path is ready, immediately alongside the Big Breakfast cottages by Old Ford Lock. The banks between here and iCity are due to become the Canal Park - a continuous landscaped corridor opening up the waterside - but are not yet complete.

Access from the Greenway: A lot of work is currently underway where the Greenway crosses the Lea. Workmen deconstructing the security plateau where 2012's Victoria Gate was sited are currently reconstructing a permanent ramp down from sewertop to river level. Additional reinstatement of the steps would be nice, because most of us can in fact cope with steps and would much rather take the direct route than a wheel-friendly diversion, but hey. A proper level entrance to the Park awaits behind yet more barriers, this one's been waiting 18 months. And outside the View Tube I do believe a brand new ramp is going in, this the first access from the container cafe down to the Loop Road beneath, and a long overdue connection.
There are the first hints that the Greenway may finally be about to properly landscaped, as promised before the Games, rather than left as a bland strip of tarmac and turf. And that's both sides of Stratford High Street. Here's hoping.

Access to the South Park: No, not really, not yet. This is the part that opens on April 5th, remember, the bit around the stadium, across the river from the Aquatics Centre. That's still the best place to stand to take a look... and I have to say I'm not yet impressed. Games visitors will remember fantastic world gardens and wild flower meadows across the riverside slopes, whereas the replacement grass around the new plaza looks proper sterile. It's early in the year, so maybe something better than a few shrubs will push through later. Meanwhile the Orbit is almost ready to take visitors, and is being illuminated bright red after sunset each evening. Tickets are available for ascents from April 5th onwards, at the same Games price of £15, with £2 off for anyone who can prove they're a resident of a Host Borough. Here's my report from 2012 if you'd like to decide if it's worth a visit.
Out of the blue I've been invited to "an exclusive preview of the south of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park before it officially opens to the public". I don't do freebies, even when there are sunset drinks in the Orbit, plus I'd much rather visit without PR types tagging along. Anyone like to go in my place on 31st March and pretend to be me?

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