We get behind the scenes look at Olympic Park as it takes shape ahead of London 2012
IN just over 500 days the eyes of the world will turn to London for the 30th Olympic Games. While football clubs battled for its future occupancy, Reporter Rob Setchell took an exclusive tour of the Olympic Park that is breathing fresh life into the capital.
“Everytime I go around the Park it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” says legendary Olympian Jonathan Edwards as the tour bus completes its journey.
The triple jump world record holder, famed for his composure, has already hosted countless tours of London’s most exciting new development. But he is still left awe-struck by the evolving Olympic Park that has transformed the Lower Lea Valley.
It is immediately obvious why such a feud has erupted in the footballing world for future control of the new Olympic Stadium. The “bowl” style arena towers over East London. Its 80,000 seats will be lit up for the Opening Ceremony next July.
The bus snakes past a large black building jutting out from the side of the 53-metre high stadium. The tour guide informs us that this is the VIP area, in which Barack Obama and the Queen will take their seats next summer.
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The developing park is a bizarre mix of building site and masterpiece. Builders continue their work as the bus travels past the central concourse and the 7,000-seat handball arena up to a huge building, designed to accommodate around 30,000 of the world’s press.
As the bus crosses a bridge over the River Lea, the VeloPark looms into view. The 12,000-seat cycling stadium has already been completed and is rumoured to be one of the fastest tracks in existence. The tour guide informs us that the wooden exterior has been painted with rhubarb juice to “preserve its colour”.
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We pass the 10,000-seat basketball arena and get our first look at the Olympic village, which, for two months, will be home to thousands of athletes and officials.
Next is the developing Aquatics Centre, which is sure to become an iconic structure for the Games. The 17,500-seats sit underneath a stunning wave-shaped roof.
As the bus heads for the exit, the foundations of Anish Kapoor’s ‘Orbit’ structure can be seen. When finished, the red steel monument will be 115m tall - 22m higher than the Statue of Liberty.
In the past, Olympic facilities have been clouded with fears of delays and lack of preparation. None of this is evident at London’s new masterpiece.
The Park will be a stunning background for the Games but its design ensures it will be about more than just athletics. The Olympic Village will turn to housing, the Aquatics Centre to community swimming pools and the stadium to West Ham’s new home - leaving a legacy long after London 2012.