Sunday, 1 August 2010

London 2012 - Beauty in Progress

I have fallen in love with social networking and the opportunities it brings... Not only have I found some wonderful friends, I have been given some wonderful opportunities...

This particular one is definitely no exception... A trip to the Olympic site as part of a competition run by London 2012 on Facebook. I entered and imagine the grin on my face when I received the email confirming my place...

The prize was for myself and a guest to tour around the Olympic site as well as take part in a photographic competition whilst we were there.   I'd invited my friend Jo to come along.

We arrived there early and had a little wander around.... Going through a walkway decorated with images for London 2012, and past the entrance to the Olympic Site, we came across a lovely little café.  As it had been an early start for us, a cup of tea was in order.

Welcomed with a warm smile, we were told to make ourselves comfy and our teas would be brought out to us... They didn't even ask for payment up front.  It reminded me of being in Greece or Italy, where your bill is served in a little shot glass along with your order.  The café was popular with the workmen from the 2012 site but definitely not your typical greasy spoon.  This was a stylish and very clean place.  We'd already decided to come back here for something to eat after our tour.

Heading to the London 2012 site office, we were greeted by security where we had to show our photographic indentification.  Jo found herself drooling over the bikes..... (well I guess its the best way to get around London)

We were then shown into a boardroom with the other competition winners & guests (there were 28 of us altogether although 120 were coming at different times over the the day)

Photo I.D. was then checked again and we received our passes along with info packs.

Our task was then given to us... We were photo journalists and editors from a 'National Newspaper'... We were to take 3 photos based on 3 headlines and then write a short piece.  A winning photo would then be chosen to feature on London 2012 website & literature.

After settling on the minibus, we drove towards the Olympic site.... Approaching the site, we could see where we'd found the café... Security is definitely a main feature for London 2012, even hiring ex Ghurka soldiers for some of the roles.

Your heart skips a beat as you drive towards the Olympic Stadium.  When you see it on the television, you truly can't take in the magnitude

Next it was onto the offices and boardroom of LOCOG and ODA (London 2012 planning and organising committee)... From the boardroom you get a fantastic view of the aqua centre along with the new shopping centre - Westfield Stratford City....

The Aqua Centre with Olympic Stadium to left

Plans for Completion of Aqua Centre

Aerial View of Aqua Centre

It was then onto our next location, the media centre.  Taking in the hustle and bustle of the site, we noticed lorries going round spraying the road with water. This was to dampen down the dust that was in the air, preventing it from settling on residents homes and vehicles.

There were also huge mounds of soil.  Before the site was cleared and for the past 400 years much of the site had been used for industry up until the late 19th century, when it was then used for landfill.  With around 75% of the land containing contaminates such as petrol, oil and heavy metals such as arsenic, the soil needed to be cleaned.

In came 5 soil washing machines to decontaminate the soil and these huge mounds were the end result.....

Truck loading a soil washing machine (photo courtesy of London 2012)

Having seen aerial shots of the Olympic park on news channels, its so easy to forget the size... 2.5 sq km (around the same area as 357 football pitches)

Taking the different roads around the park, it all sinks in... You feel complete admiration for all the hard work going into this project...

Pulling up outside the media centre, Jo and I are taken to our own private car. We weren't going into the media centre as its still pretty much a shell.  Instead we were going to the top of the multi-storey carpark.  However, there is a long climb ahead, up the many flights of stairs and as the lift hasn't yet been installed, we were being driven up...

Media Centre to left, Multi-storey to right

Reaching the top, the views are just breath-taking! This multi-storey will be the only carpark in the entire Olympic site and will be for the exclusive use of the media (with some disabled parking from what I understand)


The media centre, also known as IBC (International Broadcast Centre) and MPC (Main Press Centre) will host 20,000 of the world's media in the state-of-the-art facilities.  After the Games, the space will be used as Employment space.

Top of the multi-storey and our transport

View from multi-storey

In the above picture is, from the left, the basketball arena, the Olympic village before coming back to the media centre.

The basketball arena is the only temporary building in the park... with its bubble like exterior, it will seat 10,000-12,000.  It will house the basketball and handball finals along with with wheelchair rugby and basketball.  After the games the arena will be dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere in the UK.

Onto our next location, the velodrome, we get a closer glimpse of the Olympic village...  This will provide accommodation for athletes and officials during the games.  It will also include shops, restaurants, medical and leisure facilities along with large areas of open space.

After the games, the Olympic village will become part of the Stratford City regeneration project, providing thousands of new homes, including a mix of affordable tenures.  There will also be healthcare and education facilities.

Approaching the velodrome, we are given some exciting news... Inside waiting to greet us is none other than Ed Clancy MBE - Olympic gold medallist and three time world champion in the Team Pursuit.

Walking in, you feel your heart in your throat.  Its not yet complete but the architects are on hand to show us around... Having tried track cycling many years ago, I can feel the excitement...

The velodrome’s concrete lower tier will have 3,500 seats located around the track. A further 2,500 seats will be suspended in two upper tiers within the two curves of the venue’s roof.

The track will be built from this flat point (possibly from Siberian Spruce), curving upwards towards the metal struts.  I believe the banking angles will be approx 45 degrees...

The project manager for the ODA, is a big fan of mid-podium glazing which allows in natural daylight.  The seating is split into two sections, with 3,500 spectators at ground level and an upper tier for another 2,500.  Between these 2 sections will be a concourse of concrete pillars and glazing, which will allow outside spectators to see in and for inside spectators to feel the excitement from outside.  

Jo with Ed Clancy MBE

Me being cheeky and telling Ed to get on his bike

In return he uses me as a leaning post!

The velodrome was our last stop of the tour and so we made our way back on the minibus to a beautiful reception at Formans Fish Island, where we were served lunch and viewed photos from that days 'assignment'

H Forman and Son, a firm of fish smokers, were established in the East End in 1905.  When London 2012 was awarded, the factory was compulsory purchased for demolition as it was on the main site of the Olympic stadium.

In January 2009, the new Forman HQ was born..... A new corporate event and party venue, along with an on-site restaurant with views across the River Lea to the Olympic Stadium. 

Visitors can take a peak through stylish circular windows into Forman’s famous salmon smokery and see the artisan skills at work by day and hi-tech smoking kilns by night.

Photo courtesy of H Forman and Son

Photo courtesy of H Forman and Son

The new building was designed by award-winning architect, Phil Hudson, in the shape of a 'darne' of salmon, with ‘scales’ tiling the roof, ‘bones’ supporting the structure and the smokery itself situated in the ‘guts’ of the building.

So as you can see, we had a rather fun packed day... we didn't win the photo competition, but judging by some of the entries, there were some pretty amazing ones! The winner in our group had taken a stunning shot of a digger outside the basketball arena... As soon as I find a copy of it on London 2012 website, I'll point you in the right direction... Its a must see!

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