In a week when some of the media have been hysterically reporting about the cost of London 2012 breaking budgets due to increased security costs, Gerardine and I were given a tour of the site by Kevin Owens, Design Principal, Venues and Infrastructure for The Olympic Park. We were like kids in a sweetshop; there is design, architectural, landscape and art "eye candy" everywhere.
The buildings are being well documented in the media, from Zaha Hadid’s iconic aquatic centre to Hopkins’s sustainable and magnificent velodrome . What are equally impressive are the temporary structures such as The Basketball Arena, by architects Wilkinson Eyre (which may be going to Rio for 2016!) and the giant McDonalds restaurants. Even the power plant, The Olympic Energy Centre, a rusty steel clad, modern take on Tate Modern, designed by John McAslan and Partners is a masterpiece. The landscape is superb, from restored urban waterways to wetland habitats, to artistically thought through public plaza’s, all linked together with walkways, cycleways and places to sit and take in the views over city, views that have been maintained by a carefully thought out masterplan and by venues that have exterior areas to take a break from the action and enjoy the atmosphere of the park.
The whole park will be worth visiting even if you haven’t been lucky enough to get tickets for any of the events. It’s going to be a day out in itself, with food markets, artworks and enormous viewing screens set in landscaped amphitheatres.
The cockney minibus driver who took me back to the entrance said it all “I grew up here and believe me it was a sh*t hole. My grandkids are going to be growing up in one of the best places to live in London”. He is right, no kid could fail to be excited by the Olympic BMX track and all the other facilities that will become public facilities as well as national centres for excellence in these sports.
Gerardine and I are in no doubt that this is much more than an Olympic Park, this is a high quality, well thought through, piece of “place making”. For once it appears that a great legacy in terms of regeneration is going to result from an Olympic games. This is the start of an exciting place to live for active folk and those that want to get outside into natural environments , to walk , to cycle , to sit in lovely settings , to play sport in world class facilities ( well they are built for an Olympics ! ) and to live in a great city . This could just be world beating .
Britain can be proud.
It is possible to book tours of the site
Call the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) on tel: 0300 2012 9am-5.30pm, Monday to Friday