Thursday, 30 July 2009

London Olympics

This week the press has made much of the fact that it is exactly three years until the opening of the Olympic Games 2012, so I took the prompt and cycled over to Stratford. The Olympic Park is vast, a huge site, and if you tried to walk right around the perimeter I guess it would take about 4 hours.

Some years ago Toby and I walked most of the western and southern edge, after the bid had been announced but before the “win” in July 2005. In those days it wasn’t entirely clear just what facilities would go where, and of course there was not only much dereliction, but there were also people living in the Clays Lane estate, others squatting, and many businesses in place; all these would have to be relocated.

However, since the construction teams got possession of the whole site the progress has been remarkable.

New factory for H Forman & Son - one of the displaced businesses - just outside the edge of the Olympic Park

I made another visit with the RSA in September 2006, in the final weeks before the site was closed-off to allow demolition and remediation of the ground to begin. We went round most of the south, east, and north perimeter and were able to drive along Carpenters Road and Marshgate Lane, large parts of which have now disappeared. We also walked along many of the river and canal paths.

To get a sense of what the area was like before work started on site, use Google Maps satellite view, which appears to be about 3 years old: I guess they’ll update it soon and the ‘old’ view will be gone forever. (Type in "Carpenter's Rd, E15"). You can see the open cutting of the underground section of the Channel Tunnel rail line, heading west to St Pancras and east to Ebbsfleet.

For up to date maps and lots of other information the London 2012 site is the place to look:

Some friends have seen both the Main Stadium and Aquatic Centre from the train to Stratford, which passes to the south of the park.

You can also get glimpses of the Stadium from the canal towpaths but I can suggest a much better position.

It is The Greenway, which runs from Wick Lane, Hackney Wick, right through to Beckton, a relatively unknown route, which runs along the top of a major sewage pipe. Because it is raised, you get very good views, and can see the Stadium close up, the Aquatics Centre in the middle

distance, and all the construction work, which is great for those who like watching dumper trucks and diggers – it’s a boy thing I believe.

It is a wide and safe route, with some minor diversions due to current construction work, but well worth the visit. An alternative point of entry is for people to take the DLR to Pudding Mill Lane station and then walk for about 3 minutes. (Don't be afraid to ask the construction site security guards for directions: they are very helpful and the footpath from the station is a bit obscure)

TFL have a very helpful piece about The Greenway on their site:

So, go and have a look around: it is very impressive. And anyway, we are all going to be paying for the Olympics for the rest of our lives!

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