Sunday, 29 July 2012

Mission Improbable - Photographing The Olympic Park

Over the next few weeks, there will be tens of thousands of photographs taken inside the Olympic Park, so there will be nothing remarkable about mine. Nevertheless, I bought a day pass to the park some months ago and wanted to take a look at the architecture, half-glimpsed over the last year as the construction carried on behind the high security fences (see results on Flickr). I also wanted to see what had happened to the River Lea, which I used to cycle by before construction on the site started.

So in spite of a longstanding scepticism about the Olympics dating back to 2004, this morning I headed over to Stratford and, following the advice of a friend who is an Olympic volunteer, I made my way into the secure zone via the Greenway entrance on Stratford High Street. She had been right: there was no queues and I pass through screening, carried out by soldiers drafted in as replacements for G4S, in under ten minutes.

Inside, the park was very much as expected, although little of the River Lea that I remember was familiar (see photos from today). Prominent reminders of the corporate sponsors were everywhere, with exuberant Coca Cola staff adopting a particularly American style of true-believer perkiness. There were more volunteers, the Games Makers, than was probably necessary at this stage (although the park will become busier when the athletics starts next Friday), armed police (right) on patrol and very few G4S staff. I think I spotted two all day.This being the 'Khaki Games', there was also a very significant military presence.

Mercifully, 'attractions' provided by the likes of BP seemed unappealing to the majority of visitors but queues for the London 2012 Megastore and the world's largest branch of McDonalds were long. It is clear that, like other modern mega-venues, the park is designed to encourage people to shop as much as enjoy the events. I'm glad I took advice, however, to bring in an empty water bottle (a full one won't pass security) and my own food, as everything is incredibly expensive.
Around one, the ominous black clouds over the stadium turned into a thunderstorm and it absolutely chucked it down. For some reason, the park's designers have offered little (non-retail) shelter in the event of rain in a British summer,  which meant that people had to improvise. Hundreds huddled under the bridges crossing the River Lea, an example of crowd behaviour that I don't think the planners ever expected. It was so packed (see below) that, had the park been busier, I can imagine someone tumbling off the river bank.
At around 3pm, by now thoroughly exhausted, I finally met up with my friend at the end of her shift and was able to fulfil the arrangement we'd made beforehand. It was a proud moment (below) as I became the first person to be photographed inside the Olympic Park wearing one of the Space Hijackers' Official Protester™ t-shirts. I guess this explains the extremely cheesy grin - but I also guess it may now be more difficult gaining entry in the future... One for the National Domestic Extremism Unit database I suspect.


golookgoread said...

You took some great photographs and I enjoyed all of them very much. I liked the last one on this blog page. This is the closest I'll be getting to the Olympics... after the switch over our TV stopped working and since the electric and gas increased by £15 a month... we've cancelled the licence... SO I'm only watching the Olympics from Twitter and the Internet... now I know what I'm missing, I feel like singing the chorus to Deezee Rascal.

Europe's No 1 Anti Ryanair Campaigner John Foley.... said...

Thanks Kev some great photos.Nice to see but a bit sad i could not be there in person myself,not to see Olympics but to protest because Merseyside Police gave me London ban.

Anonymous said...

Nice idea that of showing us a different sight of the venue. I like the photograph under the bridge. Very funny!

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