diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 02, 2014

post-Olympic update
Around the park

One thing that's popped up all around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park are stand-alone posters promoting the Orbit. The twirly crimson mega-sculpture has now been open since Easter, and I've never seen it busy, so needs all the customers it can get. Part of the issue is the cost of a ticket - fifteen pounds, or two quid off if you're local and happen to have turned up clutching a utility bill. An increasing number of special 'events' are being tried to lure in the punters, for example this month they've opened a bar and drafted in Santa, though never simultaneously. Maybe one day the Orbit will take its place on the international tourist trail but, until then, views of Bromley-by-Bow and the City are going begging.

Down below, remember those splendid fountains that gush in sequence which children love running through? Turned off until next year, sorry, but then it is December.

West Ham's new Stadium roof is going in, a vast circular cantilever that'll improve the acoustics and prevent spectators below from getting wet. There's little specific visual evidence at roof level, bar some big cranes, but there's plenty going on around the perimeter. Diggers are churning up the soil above the City Mill River, speeding down the embankment and returning to dump the earth in an an unattractive heap overlooking Carpenter's Lock. Don't look now, look again in 2016.

After Water Chariots went spectacularly bust during the Paralympics, several of its fleet of passenger boats ended up in the hands of the Lee and Stort Boat Co based up the river in Roydon. This year they're back in E20 running sightseeing tours up and down the Olympic Park, for considerably less than the extortionate 2012 fare. They're still running hourly for eight quid even in winter, at weekends only, weather depending, with a few bits of tinsel and fairy lights added for festive effect. But I'd still rather walk it.

How's the pedestrian link to Warton Road going in the south of the Park? Awfully, since you ask. When the South Park opened in April someone had forgotten to add a path so visitors clambered up the embankment to gain entry. Then some temporary steps were added, but this was deemed unacceptably inaccessible, so the bank's been sealed off for months and months to allow minor civil engineering to take place. The new permanent steps are in, but aren't allowed to be de-barriered until a meandering ramp has been completed taking wheel- and pushchair users far out of their way. To reach Stratford High Street pedestrians then have to walk the long way round the roundabout via a newly-installed zebra crossing, because nobody planned ahead and added a pavement on this side under the railway bridge. The end result is a long-term infrastructure balls-up brought to life, minor in scale, but delivering a wholly inefficient legacy connection.

If you came to the Games, or have been back since, you'll remember the big wide bridge in the northern half of the park that led across from the Copper Box to the Basketball Arena. It's currently being dismantled. More precisely the broad temporary span is being removed and the narrow footbridge alongside retained, as part of the Bridge F03 Transformation Project. It's a serious mess at the moment, with conveyor belts, cranes and gaping voids, but it'll all look lovely again (and much slimmer) by the spring.

Whilst the southern half of the park is notionally open 24 hours a day, the northern half suffers no such privileges. During 2014 a low fence has been erected round the entire perimeter, with lockable gates installed at key access points, diminishing the openness of the legacy parkland. At the main entrance near the Copper Box there are four adjacent gates but on Sunday only one was open, forcing visitors and cyclists to take turns passing through. I'm sure the gates have been added for good reason, but the subliminal message is now "we don't really want you here" rather than "come on in and enjoy".

The next public opening hereabouts will be the Canal Park, down the western edge alongside the River Lea Navigation. There's no evidence as yet that it'll be a thrilling recreational border, but it'll be a lot greener than the brownfield slope it replaces, and it'll add value to the adjacent flats once they start to be built. According to all the signposts, The Canal Park opens next month.

Over on the Westfield borders, where the security tents frisked you down during the Games, the International Quarter is starting to emerge. A wall of tower blocks is planned over the next few years, the first to appear being the residential stump of Glasshouse Gardens. Only the first floor elevator core has arisen thus far, but it's a portent of the elitist barricade to come, here on the non-affordable side of E20.

There were hundreds of people in the Park on Sunday, which was impressive for November. Two continued successes are the Timber Lodge cafe and the adjacent adventure playground - if they can draw in a busy audience even at this time of year, their future success is assured. Oh, and the sunset was gorgeous too. Come back soon.

[8 photos]

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