A blog from London

22:33, Aug 02 2012

Olympic Park, the centre the Olympic activities, is a huge area in East London that has undergone an unbelievable transformation.

Seven years ago it was wasteland of abandoned factories and scrap yards. Now it is the site of seven permanent and many temporary venues.

If you spend £10, you can enter the park and  just wander the vast walkways and enjoy the waterways and landscaped wilderness gardens. You can hear the rushing whitewater of the canoeing and kayaking venue.

Games events are beamed out from the huge screens. There are food courts, sponsors tents and Olympic merchandise, and of course, street theatre. Queues everywhere.

Ticket holders swarm to the velodrome and BMX track, the aquatic centre, the hockey turf, or the basketball arena, which from the outside looks like a giant marshmellow mattress which will be dismantled and reused elsewhere.

The Orbit, a futuristic sculpture, towers over the park. You love it or hate it. You talk about it or you can use it as a GPS to check on your location in the park's vastness.


All the venues are designed with sustainability ethics, "to reduce, reuse and recycle", to minimise their impact on the environment.  Low carbon concrete, innovative light pipes feed natural light to the interiors, rainwater harvesting to flush the loos.

All the new buildings have been scored on an environmental standard. It is as if there has been an architects olympiad. The winners are the East London residents.

A haven in the middle of the park is the secure Athletes Village. It is open only to the athletes and their support staff. Here the Olympians find a haven from the hype.

It is a place where they can rest and relax, visualise and dream, eat and chat, weep or celebrate. And after the games, the East Londoners will have state of the art, apartment housing.

The volunteers, the "games makers", dressed in the now familiar pink, purple, red and orange, are everywhere in the park, controlling the crowds, directing and pointing, helping and still smiling. Yes, still smiling even though after five days of Olympic competition they were still "goldless".

I was there at the rowing venue when Team GB won the women's double. The stands were loaded with Brits, their flags, and their colours.

Helen and Heather became instant golden girls. They lay exhausted in their boat, overwhelmed. They had led all the way and deserved it. 

And all over Britain their joy was televised. The intercom in the tube system spread the good news, Brits everywhere hugged strangers, all choked up. Crowds danced in the streets.

Even those of us who were cheering for the Kiwi winners of the bronze medal felt emotionally drawn into the hype.

The Marlborough Express