diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 27, 2015

post-Olympic update
Around the park

It's not the greatest of anniversaries, but today marks two and a half years on from the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. The immediate impact of the Games may have faded but its legacy lingers, in particular around East London's newest neighbourhood - Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. How's it getting on? Anyone can make a park look busy in midsummer, so I'd say midwinter usage is a far better guide to potential long-term success. Let's run top-to-bottom.

Marsh Field allotments: Veg growers on the Manor Gardens allotments were turfed out in 2007 so that Gamesgoers could sit on a lawn and watch British Airways adverts. Their replacement plots were scraped out of Marsh Field, a mile to the north, inside a green fence resembling a prison exercise yard. It's taken several long summers to cultivate this muddy rectangle, but the new site has finally acquired a smidgeon of the character of its predecessor. And yes, I know I told you this yesterday, but today there's a photo [photo]. Today there are going to be several illustrative photos. [18 photos]
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre: They're probably not your two favourite participation sports, hockey and tennis, but the new sports facility at Eton Manor (based on a Paralympic venue) is ticking over nicely. The car park off the A12 was fairly busy over the weekend, with a bunch of sportsmen exercising by the war memorial and families delivering kitted-up youngsters to the front entrance. I can't speak for the tennis courts, but a loud and fiercely fought match was being played on the bright blue hockey pitch, with spectators making levels of noise more usually seen on Hackney Marshes. [photos]
East Marsh: They churned up the eastern part of Hackney Marshes for a coach park during the Games - not a popular move. Even six months ago the 'grass' was still fenced off and recovering, but now at last the marsh is clear, and green, with a bit of legacy car park up front and a grandstand terrace for watching any games that may one day return here. Recovery complete. [photo]
Draper's Field: Another recreational area commandeered for the Olympics, in this case for the Athletes Village stores and supplies, Leyton's children have spent several summers unable to play on their local rec. Again it's finally back, and proving popular, with kickabout courts for ball games and a rippled 'natural play' area for younger residents.
Mountain bike course: All sorts of landscaped bumps have been threaded through the roadside gaps in the north of the park, creating bike trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Now the cyclists are finally out and using them (and, I think paying, in compliance with the highly optimistic notices tacked up in even the most remote parts of the circuit).

Velodrome: Spectator passes for the cycling were some of the hottest tickets of the Games. And now you can just walk in, any weekend, and see the building for yourself. Enter on the ground floor, turn left at reception and take the glass stairs (or lift) up into the heart of the building. About a third of the perimeter is accessible, plus the seating down to the track edge, where you can sit and watch the action for as long as you like. I watched a group twenty ordinary members of the public engaging in what I think was a pre-booked taster session (£1 hr, £30). Following the safety chat and kitting out they took to the Siberian pine track for a few circuits under close supervision. Twice round the flat inner track, twice round the light blue, up to the black line and twice more, then black, then red, and eventually a few spins much higher up the slanting bend. But only a few before descent, and all a little bit crocodile, and all complete and off the track within fifteen minutes. I didn't stay the full hour, and the next more experienced group had a far less underwhelming time speeding repeatedly round, but I'd recommend coming and seeing what you're in for before you book. [photo] [photo]
Chobham Manor: The Park's first fresh housing estate is up for sale, if you'd like to express an interest in moving in. You may have read people queued overnight last week to get a flat, including one resident of Folkestone in search of a post-theatre bolthole. You may also remember that, years ago, people wondered if these apartments would ever make money. Should perhaps have built some council flats instead. [photo]
Here East: They were going to call it iCity, the reconditioned media centre down the northwestern edge of the park, but apparently that name wasn't good enough so they went with Here East instead. Like that's better. Whatever, the name's been written in giant letters across the end of the building in an entirely intrusive manner, visible as far away as Westfield. One almost wishes the intervening flats would be built quickly to blot it out. Or maybe not. [photo]
Canal Park: This is Winter 2015's big new arrival, a strip of green along the Lea down the west side of the Park. It was due to be completed this month, and maybe the landscaping is, but it'll be a while before we're allowed to tread where the plants will be. Down by Hackney Wick thus far the Canal Park looks unspectacular, more a thin barrier so that later flats don't encroach completely on the river [photo]. But at the top end of the park they've tried harder, with slides and play equipment and even a linear water feature - currently a very shallow dent in sodden soil. Watch this space. [photo]
Eastcross Bridge: The broad pedestrian bridge across the heart of the northern park has now mostly been removed, awaiting something a little slimmer to take its place. All planned since day one, of course, but in the meantime the wetland landscape looks a bit of a mess. [photo]

Mandeville Place: That's the posh name for the vast tarmac piazza in the centre of the park. It has some gym equipment and some circular planted areas, but remains a dead and characterless expanse linking two much livelier halves. [photo]
Stadium Island: The stadium's crown of floodlights is long down, a cluster of cranes are aloft, and a flatter broader roof is being added for the benefit of West Ham's spectators. As well as work within, much is being done on the slopes overlooking the City Mill River where it appears the public may eventually be able to walk unchallenged [photo]. If you head round the back of the stadium you can tell a lot's going on because at half three on Saturday afternoon the workforce start to stream out in large numbers - most walking to Stratford for the train home, a couple heading to the View Tube for a drink. Football remains 18 months away, but world rugby gets a brief look-in this autumn. [photo]
Year of the Bus: The southern end of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was impressively busy over the weekend, which is quite something for January, aided and abetted by the presence of 60 fibreglass buses. Possibly the final event of TfL's Year-and-a-bit of the Bus, these 3D artistic canvases were stacked up on the bridge past the Aquatic Centre in such close proximity that ticking them off was almost child's play [photo]. I say almost, because apparently a couple were missing, making a mockery of the "can you find them all?" activity sheet. Further play was taking place inside a marquee, where the 60th bus was getting its decorative coating and an awful lot of free stickers (date-checking '2014') were on offer [photo]. A full size New Bus For London also drew the crowds, particularly for car-driving outer Londoners who may never have seen one in the flesh before (and maybe never will again). As an event space, QEOP continues to prove its flexibility and popularity.
The Orbit: Unheard of scenes... a queue at the ticket office on Saturday! And this was groups and families unaware of the pre-book discount but still willing to part with £15 for a view from the sky. I can't speak for Sunday, when clouds may well have discouraged visitors from ascending, but if you can get enough people into the Park on a sunny day, the Orbit's white elephant qualities temporarily fade. [photo]
Southern exits: Carpenters Road is open now, remember, and the steps down to the top of Warton Road are also finally (finally!) complete [photo]. But the last two exit routes remain blocked - one down the edge of the Waterworks River and the other to link up with the Greenway at Stratford High Street. Crossrail are to blame for the blockage - they're still demolishing the old Pudding Mill Lane and driving a flyover through the gap. We were promised back in 2009 that this area would reopen "in spring 2015", but there's absolutely no sign of this coming true thus far. What may be almost ready is the second replacement allotment site, pegged out alongside the DLR, the identikit sheds awaiting users who can give the place a smidgeon of character. But that's where we came in...

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