Touring the Olympic 2012 Site

stadium olympic photo

All Images by B. Alter: The Stadium

The spotlight turned on East London for the second weekend in the London Festival of Architecture. That's where the London 2012 Olympics will be held, as will the last 6km of the London Olympic Marathon. In keeping with the East London theme, there was a tour of the Olympic site and the new developments.

The Olympics are being held in Stratford--a derelict part of the east end of London. It was chosen so that the new buildings and infrastructure will give the area a real boost into the 21st century in terms of social and physical renewal.

marathon ends photo

End of the Marathon

Stratford, nothing to do with Shakespeare, has long been a miserable and polluted part of town with a history of dirty industry that has gone bad. So bad that 80% of the soil in the Olympic area was removed, washed with chemicals and then replaced. Even the fish in the canal running through the area were removed and replaced with new ones.

Transport was a key part of the winning of the Olympic bid. Organisers have to bring 280,000 people a day to the area. The new trains from St. Pancras will take 7 minutes to get them there--if it works. The London Tubes presently are not known for their reliability. Supposedly, there will be no private parking spaces, everyone will have to come by public transport. Critics have questioned whether this will be the case with special lane closures for athletes and VIP's and 3000 BMW's on call.

The buildings are rising out of the ground, almost perfectly on time for the great event. The stadium is the most prominent. It will have a capacity of 80,000 during the Games: 25,000 permanent seats will remain afterwards. Designed by Populous and HOK, the light innovative design has a canvas roof covering two thirds of it. It is possible to dismantle it after the Games. On the ground and below the stadium will be 700 changing rooms and facilities for the athletes. Food will be served from temporary pods beside the building.

zaha hadid photo

Aquatics Centre: Zaha Hadid

The Aquatics Centre is the controversial one: designed by Zaha Hadid, it was hard to find someone who would built it, because it is so complicated and thus wildly expensive. Its wave-like roof used a staggering 3,000 tons of steel. It has two temporary wings which will be removed after the games. It has two 50 M. pools and two diving pools which are already completed and being tested.

flat pack photo

Basketball Arena

The basketball arena, designed by Allies and Morrison, is the white building in the middle of the photo. It will hold 12,000 and during the Paralympic Games it will hold 10,000 spectators for wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball. It is being built as a true flat pack: after the Games it will be taken apart and reassembled elsewhere. It is said that the arena will be sold to Brazil, where it could be used in the 2016 Games.

To the left of the white building, barely visible, is the Velodrome. It will have 3,500 seats located around the track and a further 2,500 seats will be suspended in two upper tiers within the two curves of the venue's roof.

first trees photo

First trees have been planted

One of the great legacies of the Games will be the huge park that remains. At 250 acres, it will be the largest urban park created in Europe in the last 150 years. The first 100 trees have been planted, all of which are local to England: willow, ash, alder and oak. The River Lee, which is now mainly a canal, surrounds the site so the park will contain the UK's largest ever urban river and wetland planting. Work has also started to plant the 300,000 wetland plants, grown in Norfolk and Wales.

The park is a reversal of ecology; all of the earth has been cleaned, the water in the canal cleaned, newts and fish have been removed and put back in. Reeds from beds in Wales are being transported.

You can watch the site as it progresses on the Olympic webcams.

More on London Festival of Architecture and the Olympics
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London's Green Olympics are Looking Brown

Touring the Olympic 2012 Site
The spotlight turned on East London for the second weekend in the London Festival of Architecture. That's where the London 2012 Olympics will be held, as will the last 6km of the London Olympic Marathon. In

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