As a Tower Hamlets organisation and a member of the host boroughs’ festival, CREATE, we were invited by the Olympic Delivery Authority to go and check out what all the fuss is about, on a special guided bus tour of the Olympic Park. We’re used to hearing so much controversial, negative rap about London 2012, and as it still seems such a distant concept, we jumped at the opportunity to be able to witness, in the flesh, the fast approaching reality of the mammoth beast!
852 days before the Opening Ceremony we arrived at Stratford station, boarded a lavishly designed 2012 Olympics mini bus (keep your logo opinions to yourself!), and made our way to the Park, to encounter Phase 3: The Big Build.
For the 400 years or so before the London Development Agency handed the land over to the Olympic Delivery Authority back in July 2007, the area was mainly used for industry, from textile printing in the 17th century, to petrol factories in the 18th century, and then as landfill. Plastic inventor Alexander Parkes set up the first plastic factory here in 1866, we were told it was also home to the first ever petrol pump, and perhaps most excitingly, the first ever drycleaners! The only building from this previous life that remains, and will remain, is the proud-standing King’s Yard – a 19th century sweet factory.
The size of Hyde Park and a 25 minute walk in length, the Olympic Park site isn’t getting much press space at the moment. This is perhaps because nothing is of interest when all’s going well – currently all the construction work is on budget and on time. Phase 3 includes ten milestones to be completed by 27 July 2010 (2 years before the Opening Ceremony). These include the structural completion of the Aquatic Centre and roof (the first swimming pool is already in), the majority of the Olympic Village homes (we were informed this is the largest single residential building development ever in London – in legacy it will be sold off as ‘affordable’ tenures, and will include a school and health centre), and the Olympic Stadium. Driving around the site, we were just beginning to comprehend the sheer size of the project, and can only begin to imagine what it must be like to work on something of this scale.
We were told that an independent £14.4million has been raised to incorporate arts and culture in to the site. From an arts perspective, it was a delight to learn about how numerous artists have been commissioned to stamp a creative mark on the basic construction of the site – from security fences to café furniture, so that ‘art’ is embedded in everything and becomes ‘a part of the DNA’ of the park.
As our tour bus dropped us off back at Stratford Station, we were left with feelings of wonderment and excitement, yet still found it difficult to get a grasp on the end product, and the true extent to the impact the Olympics will have on London (and in particular Tower Hamlets). Of course, since our visit we have had a dramatic change of government, and for what is a controversial topic (particularly among the arts), we can only hope that it will keep on track and to plan, and the hard work, goals and expectations for London 2012 will not be jeopardised.
For updates on everything to do with the Games we suggest you take a look at the London 2012 site.
And finally, if you haven’t registered for tickets yet, we suggest you do so soon!