London 2012 Olympics

Olympic Park: A giant work in progress

My friend Heidi arrived from Minnesota on Saturday. As on all arrival days, a couple of hours are spent napping and the evening is spent planning the upcoming days. One tour that interested us both was of Olympic Park.

Most of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in the venues at Olympic Park. Events like tennis and rowing will be held elsewhere. In fact, the rowing events will be held at the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre which is a stone’s throw from Maidenhood. Obviously, Olympic Park will be completed by opening ceremony on July 27, 2012 because there is no alternative but seeing the site with my own eyes today tells me that the crew has a lot of work ahead of them.

London 2012 will be the third time London has hosted the Games, thereby setting the record for the most times a single city has hosted the Games. Olympic Park for the 2012 Games is located in East London whereas Olympic Park for the two previously hosted games were located in West and North London. Sorry, South London. Maybe next time.

Per Eddie, our tour guide who had his barn door open for the entire tour, East London is the poorest part of London. Eddie mentioned this no less than 12 times during our two-hour tour. Organizers chose East London to help bring revitalization to the previously industrial and smelly area. At times, I felt as though I was in the audience of the Revitalization of East London sales and marketing presentation.

Eddie also stated that 75 percent of the money spent to build Olympic Park will help the East London community grow and prosper “well after the Games”.

Olympic and Paralympic Village

The majority of athletes will live in Olympic and Paralympic Village. The village will include everything athletes need during their stay in London. Residential apartments, dining, and medical facilities to name a few. The building shown on the right-hand side of the photo above shows the current state of the residential apartments/flats. The apartments will include sleeping quarters (three bedrooms) and bathing facilities only and will be managed by Holiday Inn as a hotel. After the Games, one of the three bedrooms in each hotel room will be converted to a kitchen, changing the flat into a two-bedroom flat. The flats will then be leased or sold. This is one example of how the money spent will be a lasting legacy well after the Games.

The white, egg carton-looking building on the left is the basketball stadium. It is a temporary structure.

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium is a mammoth outdoor stadium which can seat up to 80,000 people. The original plan was to build the stadium as a giant bowl composed of a permanent lower tier and removable upper tier. After the Games, the giant bowl would be reduced to a saucer by removing the upper tier and reducing the seating capacity to a more manageable 25,000 seats. Time went by, arguments were had, a lack of bidders came forward, and now the new plan is to leave the stadium with both tiers and lease the entire stadium to the local football club.  

ArcelorMittal Orbit

ArcelorMittal Orbit is just a crazy name for a really expensive metal piece of art that looks like a roller coaster. Some have compared its design to the Eiffel Tower in Paris and have coined the nickname “eye full tower.” Standing at 115 m /378 ft high, it will be 22 m / 22 ft taller than New York’s Statue of Liberty. It looks as crazy in person as it does in the photo.

It cost £19.1m (£16m is privately funded) to build but is it going to help the revitalization effort? And if so, how? Who is going to paint this beast as soon as its color starts to fade and/or paint starts to chip? Maybe this is where the revitalization comes into play – jobs will be created for upkeep and maintenance.

Aquatics Centre

It kills me to write about the Aquatics Centre as swimming tickets were the tickets I really, really wanted but was not granted. In fact, I was granted no tickets. It was a sad day when I got the email telling me I was shit out of luck as far as London 2012 tickets go.

Back to the Aquatics Centre…

During the Games, the aquatics centre will seat 17,500 spectators. After the Games, the two wings (seating 7,500 each) will be removed, reducing the seating capacity to 2,500. Brilliant. I don’t know exactly why this is brilliant aside from the fact that I just wanted to say it was brilliant. The Aquatics Centre is a permanent structure.

Transportation to the Games

Eddie explained that transportation costs to the event venue is included in the ticket price. This sounds totally awesome on the surface but it is a little misleading. Surely if I had tickets, my entire train cost from Maidenhead to East London would not be included in my ticket price. I have this sneaking feeling that it really means that the new Javelin train from St Pancras International station to Stratford International station (Olympic Park) is included in the ticket price and getting to St Pancras is on your own 10 pence. Regardless, the seven minute train ride from St Pancras to Olympic Park is a much-needed improvement over the current multi-stop train lines.

Overall, the tour was informational, the weather was cold and windy, and we spent way too many hours on multiple trains to get to and from Maidenhead/Olympic Park. I’d like to tour the venues after the Games but prior to the modifications to reduce their size and/or alter their intent, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they offer post-Olympic tours.

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