With just one year to go until the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, we took the opportunity of a sunny afternoon to cycle along east London’s Greenway (a revamped footpath and cycleway), to see how the Olympic site is coming together.
Setting out from Hackney, we cycled through the green avenues of Victoria Park, which will host live screenings of the action during the Olympics - picturesque consolation for those of us who didn’t get tickets - as well as a buzzing programme of music and exhibitions. Exiting the park through St Mark’s Gate, we turned right to reach the Greenway.
Passing the Old Ford Lock on our left, we cycled along the Greenway towards the northwest corner of the Olympic Park with the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) - wall and roof cladding complete - and Main Press Centre (MPC) - structurally complete - ahead in the distance. During the Games this will be the hub of the Main Media Complex, which will be a 24-hour hive of connectivity, bringing the Games to an estimated four billion people worldwide.
Continuing along the canal, part of the white triangular formation of the top ring of the Olympic Stadium peeks over the top of the canal side Percy Dalton Peanut factory, opposite the lock keeper’s cottages.
Up ahead is the bright green structure of the View Tube. Made out of recycled shipping container crates, the View Tube is a social enterprise and community hub with a café and panoramic viewing platform over Stratford City and the emerging Olympic Park. The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium will be the centerpiece of the Games, where the opening and closing ceremonies and all athletic events will take place; adorned with a crown of surplus gas pipes forming the top ring, and built with recycled low-carbon concrete and a significantly reduced use of steel, the structure shows off its sustainable credentials.
Next to the stadium, and growing with the speed to rival Jack’s magical beanstalk, is the ‘Hubble Bubble’, the ‘Colossus of Stratford’, more officially known as ArcelorMittal Orbit, Anish Kapoor’s red spiraling sculptural landmark, which he described as “the commission of a lifetime”. The £19.1m tower will be Britain’s tallest piece of public art at 115m when complete - taller than Big Ben. During the Olympics 700 people an hour will be able to use lifts to the top for panoramic views of London. Kapoor explained: “It is an object that needs a journey, a journey around the object but also up and through the object. It needs real participation and engagement.”
Making a splash to the right is the sweeping wave-like roof of Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre; inside the pools - a 50m competition pool, a 25m competition diving pool, and a 50m warm-up pool - have been dug out, lined and tested. During the Olympics, the Aquatics Centre will host swimming, diving, water polo finals and the Aquatics discipline of the modern pentathlon.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson praised the progress of the site: "We have a huge amount still to do, but if things go on as they are I have no doubt whatsoever that we are going to lay on the greatest Olympic and Paralympic Games that have ever been held."
And with that we were back on our bikes and looking forward to our next visit to the site to see the latest round of developments, as the Games get ever closer.