Tag Archives: 2012

Olympic Park from the air

Following on from last week’s post about my visit to The Orbit, I thought it’d be nice to post a couple of other views of the Olympic Park that I’ve taken recently.

First up is an aerial shot of the park that I took on a recent flight back into London. We flew in early on a sunday morning, and were lucky enough to have a fantastically clear view of the city, including flying right over the Olympic Park.

London Olympic Park from the air
(Click the image to see a larger version)

The Olympic Stadium itself is in the centre of the photo, and immediately to its left are the Orbit, Aquatic Centre and Water Polo Arena. Towards the bottom left of the photo is the Olympic Village. To the right of the village is a large, white box which is the Basketball Arena; to the right of that is the curved roof of the Velodrome, probably the most attractive of all the Olympic venues. To the far right of the picture you can just about see the Hockey pitches, right in front of the huge International Broadcast Centre.

You can get a clearer picture of the park’s layout from my second photo, which is a model of the Olympic Park, part of New London Architecture’s huge model of Central London (which is well worth a visit if you’ve never been). This photo is oriented with the southern end of the park (the Olympic Stadium) to the right, and the northern end (with the Velodrome) to the left.

London 2012 Olympic Park model

You can see the rest of my Olympic photos here.

Looking down on the Olympic Park from the Orbit

Earlier today I was incredibly lucky to be one of the first people to go up the Orbit. Even before the Olympics has started, it’s already become one of the most recognisable structures in the Olympic Park, and is no doubt soon to become familiar to people around the world, as it’s bound to feature prominently in TV broadcasts from the park once the games begin (especially as there aren’t that many spectacular buildings in the park).

The ArcelorMittal Orbit

The Orbit from inside the Olympic Park

Getting in was no different to the procedure that would be familiar to anyone who’s been to a test event in the park recently – arrive from Stratford, and cross the road to go through the efficient and friendly airport-style security. Once through it was a short walk in between the Aquatic Centre & Water Polo Arena, over the river via footbridge, and there it was.

The Orbit from underneath

You can see the central hole in the viewing platform from underneath

The biggest surprise on arrival is that there’s a strange rusty iron bell hanging out of the bottom (the Guardian’s art critic described it as an arse – I can’t see it myself). Just behind that is a little structure that contains the lift the whisks you quickly up to the top.

The Orbit, London Olympic Park 2012

Looks more like a bell than an arse to me, but then what do I know, I’m not an art critic

On reaching the top I was delighted to see that you can actually get outside into the open air, with two little balconies on either side, one of which has great views right into the Olympic Stadium next door – good enough that we even got a little sneak preview of the opening ceremony, as we could see a little grassy hill with a tree on it at one end of the stadium (you can read more about that, and see where the tree will sit here).

Olympic Opening ceremony preview - the tree in the London Olympic stadium

A sneak preview of the opening ceremony – a tree at one end of the London Olympic Stadium

The viewing platform itself is lovely – wide and spacious, with fantastic views on all sides. We were lucky enough to have clear skies tonight (especially given how grim the weather has been recently), so we had clear views all the way out to Wembley and beyond. In fact, with the O2, Excel, and Wembley all in sight you can see almost all of the major games venues from up here.

World's biggest McDonald's in London Olympic Park

The world’s largest McDonald’s, in front of the (L-R) Energy Centre, Copper Box – aka Handball Arena – and International Broadcast Centre

The platform also had one other surprise – inside are two other Anish Kapoor sculptures, huge curving mirrors not unlike the C-Curve mirror that was in London’s Kensington Gardens in 2010.

Anish Kapoor sculpture in the Orbit viewing Gallery

One of the two mirrors inside the viewing gallery

The biggest surprise of the day was how it changed how I feel about the sculpture. Beforehand I really couldn’t make up mind about it. Now I’ve been up, I’m a total convert. To see it at close hand, from underneath, from above, from inside, and from the stairs on the way down, is to experience it totally differently from seeing it from far away. The shape curves and twists in different directions, giving a different view from every angle. It’s incredibly solid but incredibly lightweight at the same time, with the slender struts leaving plenty of room for views in between.

Looking down on the Olympic Park from the Orbit

Looking down on the Olympic Park from inside the Orbit

Most people I’ve spoken to up til now have been pretty ambivalent about the Orbit, if not downright hostile. Based on tonight, I reckon that’ll change pretty rapidly. It may look like a big red squiggle, but close up the structure itself is fantastic, and the views even better, and I think Londoners are soon going to grow to love it.

You can see my full set of pictures of my Orbit visit here.

My Olympic Obsession

I have to admit, I am becoming slightly obsessed with the Olympics. Last week marked 500 days before they start, a date marked by the erecting of giant Olympic rings at St. Pancras station, the tickets going on sale, and a slightly crap-looking countdown clock appearing in Trafalgar Square (which, in typically British fashion froze on the same day). I’m starting to worry that if my current levels of excitement carry on for the next four hundred and ninety-odd days I’ll be exhausted by the time they actually kick off.

London Olympic Stadium

The main stadium...not quite as lovely as Beijing's

It’s been building slowly for quite a while. My earliest Olympic memories, from 1984, when I was 9, are all Athletics-related, thanks to my Dad being a big fan of the sport, and the big British successes (Daley Thompson’s memorable Decathlon win, and the epic battles between Steve Cram & Seb Coe in the 1500m, and Tessa Sanderson vs Fatima Whitbread in the Javelin). I carried on mostly watching the Athletics over the next few years, and it wasn’t until Sydney in 2000 I started to watch a much bigger range of sports.

By the time the vote took place in 2007 to decide whether or not London would get to be host the obsession had well and truly kicked in – on the day the announcement was made I spent a big chunk of the afternoon at work sharing a pair of headphones with the only other colleague who was interested listening to radio trying to find out if we’d won, and when the vote finally came through we both screamed, getting us some filthy (and rather confused) looks from the rest of the office.

By the time Beijing came round in 2008, I watched as much as I could – my interest obviously being helped by the best modern performance of the British team, including in more obscure sports (who knew I could I could get so excited by Taekwondo or Modern Pentathlon?). I even managed to get enthusiastic about sports with no British interest, like Handball (more fast-paced and exciting than Football) and Water Polo (admittedly helped here by the fact this one wins my vote for the fittest men). In fact by the end of it I’d watched at least a little bit of every sport except the Volleyball (and only because the BBC never seemed to show any of it).

After a break in following the build up while I was away travelling, I’ve been following the news closely ever since I got back, devouring every update I can find, from the high-profile stuff like what they’re going to do with the Olympic stadium afterwards (as an Athletics fan I am VERY glad they’ll be keeping the athletics track) to the bits of little interest to anyone but Olympic-geeks like me (the anxious wait for host-nation places for the Brits in sports which we’re still working out how to play, like Handball).

I’ve now made three pilgrimages out to Pudding Mill Lane to watch the progress in the Olympic Park (there’s a fantastic close-up of the main stadium and aquatics centre from the nearby elevated Greenway, best viewed from the temporary cafe there which also, helpfully, does the finest bacon sandwich I’ve found in London), and will be back again over the coming months to watch, intrigued to see if the main stadium will continue to look so dull, continuing to be angry that the temporary seating around the aquatics centre have ruined the view of Zaha Hadid’s gorgeous curving roof, and desperately hoping that the massive 115 metre high Anish Kapoor sculpture/viewing platform next to the stadium turns out to be as beautiful as his previous beautiful installations for the Tate Modern and Kensington Gardens and not as ugly as the drawings suggest.

London Olympics 2012 Aquatics Centre Swimming Pool

The Olympic swimming pool: lovely roof, shame about those seats

The main focus for my excitement right now is applying for tickets. Obviously I want to go and see as much as is possible, but it’s turning out to be both confusing and frustrating. Applying for Glastonbury tickets is like child’s play in comparison. That just takes lots of mindless but frantic clicking and refreshing. This is more like playing 4-dimensional chess. While blindfold. And not being able to see what the other player is doing.

Being interested in too many sports is the first problem, as there are far many things going on each day. Take Sunday 5th August for example. Do I want to try to watch the Men’s Pommel Horse final in the Gymnastics? Or the Cycling Sprint finals? Or the chance to see Ben Ainslie win his 4th consecutive gold medal in the sailing down in Weymouth? Obviously I want to see all of them, but they’re on simultaneously. Each time I think I’ve worked out a combination of events to apply for, I find I’ve left no room to apply for a sport I want to see. Or that I’ve chosen two consecutive sessions that are on opposite sides of London, which will be impossible to get between thanks to crowded public transport and slow security.

Then there’s the issue of how many to go for and at what price. The complexities of this issue are discussed in a lot more detail by my favourite London blogger, Diamond Geezer, here – and it’s well worth a read if you’re thinking of applying, as it covers all the potential pitfalls as well as the detail of the process. But basically any over-subscribed event becomes a lottery, and any under-subscribed event you’ll be guaranteed tickets. When you apply for tickets, you are committed to paying for ALL of the events you applied for, if your name comes up for each one. This is a potential nightmare – if I apply for too much (assuming I won’t get loads because they will be too popular) and get them all it could cost me thousands. If I apply for too few (to be more financially cautious) and get none I’ll be furious.

Then there’s the price issue – obviously applying for higher price tickets will give me a better chance of success, and a better view, but equally they risk breaking the bank (the best Athletics tickets are £450 for most events, for example). Despite building a rather impressive spreadsheet (yes, I am really that much of a geek) the permutations have been doing my head in.

I’m finally getting close. I think I’ve decided to apply for some higher priced tickets for my favourite sports (Gymnastics, BMX & Athletics), mixed up with cheaper tickets for qualifying rounds for a wide range of more obscure sports. The Athletics has been the hardest of all to choose – it annoys me as someone who’s been a fan of the sport all my life that these will be some of the hardest to get because of its status as the premier Olympic sport (to all those people applying for tickets for this: I ask you where were you when I was getting drenched in the rain at Crystal Palace on the wettest night of last summer watching the British Grand Prix???). But I’m praying that everyone else applies to see the 100 metres or the bits with major British interest like the Heptathlon or Triple Jump, leaving me to get good seats to see my favourite athlete, the American Allyson Felix, try to finally beat her long time rival, the Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown to gold in the Women’s 200 metres. They’re both incredible athletes, and Felix has three consecutive world championship golds – but has lost out to Campbell-Brown in both Beijing & Sydney. Should be an incredible race if they’re both there, and I desperately hoping to be there to see it.

I still haven’t worked out what to apply for yet (thank god the organising committee has given me 6 weeks to work it all out) and my current work-in-progress wish list would come to well over £1000 if I got everything I apply for – although increasingly I’m starting to think I’m quite prepared to pay that for this once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Olympics in my home city.