Not long to go now. Less than 96 hours to the Opening Ceremony and Londonmanstan and his family are as excited about the Olympics coming to London.
6th July 2005 seems a long time ago. The Lee Valley was derelict, Stratford was a pretty run down shopping centre based around a market in East London and virtually entirely unknown outside those East Londoners who lived near it or passed through it on the Central Line. The East London and North London lines were unreliable and rarely used and the boroughs on either side of the River Lee-Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham were parts of forgotten and ignored poverty stricken East London.
Then along came the utter surprise of winning. The plans, the arguments, the money, and surely one of this City’s greatest achievements – transforming hundreds of desolate and contaminated acres into the Olympic Park. The statistics are always mind blowing. 800,000 tons of earth was removed from the main site. 46,000 people worked on the sites. Beautiful new buildings in the Swimming complex and the Velodrome arose from the dust. An Olympic stadium with seating for 80,000 whilst not sensational in design like the Birds Nest in Beijing, contains only one fifth of the amount of steel that the Chinese version used.
OK we also have to put up with the overwhelming demands of the multinational corporates including bizarrely the world’s biggest MacDonalds serving the world’s least healthy food in the world’s greatest sporting event. And, with apologies to those of you who love shopping we now have Europe’s biggest shopping centre in Westfield Stratford City. Stratford Station has been transformed into one of the best transport hubs in London.
You can get trains to Paris, Faversham, Southend, Clapham Junction and to St. Pancras – the latter in under 7 minutes! Last night at the penultimate rehearsal of the Opening ceremony TFL obliged by making sure both the London Overground and the Central Line-two of the three most vital links were up the spout. Londonmanstan predicts that it will be all right on the night.
And then there are the Olympic lanes put in especially to give our lovely taxi drivers something to moan about. Canning Town, two miles south of the stadium has been cleaned up and giant concrete bowls placed in the streets brimming with flowers. New wide pavements and even a fairly swanky block of flats have been erected.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson wanted “an explanation mark” (!) to mark the event. His wish has been granted with a 311 foot construct of twirling red steel called the Orbit by Anish Kapoor the internationally acclaimed artist. Controversial and in the opinion of many at £27m, a waste of money it has already proved to be a source of polarised views. Londonmanstan loves it. Mrs. Londonmanstan hates it. On Saturday we will be amongst the first of many thousands of visitors to get the views and climb the structure. We will let you know how we get on.
Everywhere the Olympic banners hang from lampposts. Gaily painted Olympic buses and cars and thousands of volunteer helpers in their distinctive brown and purple uniforms are becoming a familiar site. And to cap it all, after cold wet and windy weather for more than three months, the clouds disappeared and the temperature raced up to 30 degrees c. Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour De France and predictions of gold cascading down on Team GB are anticipated!
You might not be able to turn right into Tavistock Square or get anything to eat around Russell Square for the next 3 weeks as 20,000 sports writers from around the world descend on the central London press centre but the excitement in town is palpable. Add to that Daniel Barenboim conducting his mixed Arab/Israeli musicians playing Beethoven at the BBC Proms and street theatre, dance, music and events of an endless nature and we can safely say the Olympics have arrived in the world’s greatest city.
So fellow Londoners lets smile and make this a games to remember. London 2012 is ready to take off and be the best games ever. Let us confound all those critics and cynics. Let the worlds greatest sporting event takes its place for the third time in 104 years in the world’s greatest city. Let the Olympic Games begin.