Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Stratford gets ready to welcome the world

LONDON/SNAPSHOTS OF CHANGE. You take the Docklands Light Railway to Pudding Mill Lane, follow the signs through the outskirts of the construction site and after a short walk the panoramic view opens up.
This is the place that three years from now will be the centre of the universe, at least for 17 days while the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are held here at Stratford in the long forgotten eastern part of London.
It took us a while to get here. We went to Stratford expecting signs that would take us to The View Tube, a recently opened outlook where you can see the future Olympic Park that will host the main events of the 2012 Games.
Nobody seemed to have heard about the The View Tube, but after some wandering we found the place. The view is excellent. There is a small café in the building and a little exhibition outside.
The Olympic Park with its sports facilities, the Olympic Village and a huge shopping centre will be the symbol of a massive regeneration of parts of east London, now being done at a hectic pace to be ready by the summer of 2012. It is also the starting point of wider regeneration that will go on for many years beyond the Olympics mostly eastwards along the Thames River.
Construction at the Olympic Park is said to be on schedule. The Olympic Stadium will seat 80,000 during the Games. Afterwards it will be scaled down to a sports stadium seating 25,000 spectators. There has been talk of the stadium as the future home of the West Ham football club.
The other main building to be seen from The View Tube is the Aquatics Centre, design by Zaha Hadid. After some cutbacks in the original plans, the Aquatics Centre is also on schedule.
In the distance you can the ongoing construction of the Olympic Village that will house some 23,000 athletes and officials during the Games. After the Games the dormitories will be converted into 2,800 homes.
Next to the Olympic Stadium construction will soon begin on the ArcelorMittal Orbit, artist Anish Kapoor’s 115-metre twisting steel sculpture/tower that is expected the future attraction of th Olympic Park.
At Stratford centre the new Stratford International train station will be the hub for communications during the Olympics and part of great improvements of public transportation in the part of London.
This will also be home of the new Westfield shopping centre, one of the main components of the new Stratford.
Leading up to the Olympic site, Stratford High Street is the scene for a lot of ongoing and residential development (left). The final six kilometres of the Olympic marathon will be run along this street, which today has a lot of traffic running through nondescript neighbourhoods.
Some new residential buildings are already up and more are under way. Proposals for construction along Stratford High Street could lead to the arrival of 20,000 new residents to this part of London in the future.
There has been discussion on the qualities of the ongoing regeneration of east London. In a recent report to the London Assembly it was said that the 2012 Olympics may not live up to its promised legacy.
The report warned that the Olympic Park may become “an island of prosperity, cut off from the surrounding community”.
Future will tell.

This is the first of a series of glimpses of the ongoing regeneration of London.


On schedule; the Olympic Stadium seen from The View Tube.


Viewing the future of Stratford; the Olympic Park as it will look in 2012.


Ongoing construction along Stratford High Street in east London.