Olympic sights from a rising star

An overcast September afternoon saw about 10 rising stars from across London arrive at the Stratford Olympic Site in Newham. Armed with two forms of identification (strict security controls!), we boarded the designated bus and were whisked away towards the Olympic site. Our guide was Delia Beddis form the Olympic Park Legacy Company, the public sector organisation responsible for the long-term planning, development, management and maintenance of the Olympic Park and its facilities after the London 2012 Games).

Those lucky enough to get a window seat were rewarded with panoramic views of Maryland and Leyton as we made our way to the Northern entrance of the Olympic Park near Eastway. The cascading of investment has just started to make a mark in some of these areas. Aside from the Olympics, Stratford is undergoing immense development at Stratford City, which together with surrounding development will create 2.9 million sq ft retail and leisure space, 1.3 million sq ft hotel space, a large 6.6 million sq ft commercial district (up to 30,000 jobs), and 16,400 new homes, and the scale of building work was evident.

Within the Park, venues and facilities have risen, however the Olympic site is still as much a building site as last time I was here (6 months ago!), there are still more venues to come, lots of infrastructure and much fitting out to be completed. Nevertheless, for those who recall the dodgy ‘markets’, long vacant dog track and bus depots of Waterden Road, or the fridge mountain of Carpenter’s Road and the ‘marginal’ businesses of Marshgate Lane, these organic uses have been swept away. In their place is an 80,000 seat athletics stadium, the residential blocks of the Olympic Village (for 15,000 athletes), the shell of the Aquatics centre, with a huge temporary banking for 17,500 seats, the steel structure of the Velodrome (6000 seats), the concrete columns of the Handball Arena (7000 seats), a large tin shed to house the IBC/MPC (Broadcasting and Press facilities) and a multi-storey car park. Oh yes, and early structures of what will become temporary venues for Hockey (15,000) and Basketball (12,000).

An encouraging sight was the effort being put in to try and make best use of the waterways that permeate the site, integrating these into the wider environment. In some places both hard and soft landscaping was already in place and is being vigorously protected. This should mature well by Games time and subsequently for any legacy. On our way out of the site, at a southern exit, evidence of further non-Olympic investment was clear, in the shape of multiple high rise residential developments either side of High St and a Porsche dealership – surely a sign of increasing prosperity for the area?

After the site visit we were whisked away for a spot of tea at the Olympic Park Legacy Company in West Ham. Dr Simon Bell, Delia and her colleague from Convergence (a partnership of the five host boroughs), provided us with some interesting background information on the Stratford Olympic site and an overview of the challenges of delivering a lasting Olympic Legacy. The afternoon ended with Q&A’s and prep for the Sustainable Communities Master class, which is underway next week. Overall it was a very interesting informative afternoon and I look forward to future site visits.

Gabriella Richard