At 6.30pm on Thursday 21st May 2009 I boarded an official Olympic Park Tour bus for the inaugural London Bloggers tour of the site organised by Craig Beaumont of The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd. Anyway, there were about 12 of us on the gaudy bus, covered as it was in colourful branding and logos designed by blind the children of people who work in Wolf Olins accounts department.
After a short film about plans for the site, followed by a rather crappy ‘quiz’ consisting of six questions no-one was really interested in or cared to guess, we were then in the capable hands of Morag, who was, despite the inner thighs of her unprofessional trousers, really competent and informative. As we were driven around the site she regaled us with information about the various things we passed, most of which just looked like a huge building site! We also saw lots of unwashed soil piled up in mounds waiting to be cleaned of arsenic and nasty chemicals. And I managed to spot a few lonely trees along the newly-cleaned River Lea.
There is only one building on the site that has survived to tell any story of the past and that’s the old Kings Yard Textile Mill. I find it really hard to believe that there really was nothing else worth saving or renovating. It’s all a bit sad. I did find it interesting to see the trestle framework for the construction of Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre, but large-scale areas of new build such as this, splattered with ‘iconic’ structures, are really not for me. I got off the bus at the end of the tour feeling a bit ‘so what?’.
There was much talk about things like sustainability, being eco/environmentally-friendly and how much can be, is being, and will be recycled, yet they handed out to us some wasteful promotional material. On boarding the bus we were all given a big nasty 16-page A5 fold-out leaflet that I could quite easily redesign as a 12-pager by losing all the unnecessary crap such as the superfluous 'facts' that during the games “over 260,000 loaves of bread expected to be consumed” (how big is a loaf of bread?) and “160,000 litres of milk expected to be consumed”. Who cares?! The leaflet also has a plan of the site on it that has got a lot of relevant information missing (Craig, please call me!). And towards the end of the tour we were all given plastic Oyster Card/ travel pass holder/ wallet things. Inside these wallets on one side are 3 ‘Did You Know?’ cards. Mine relate to cycling and paralympic boules and archery. Thanks. They look cheap and nasty. In the opposite pocket is a large leaflet, which concertinas and then folds, entitled ‘join in’. (Notice the lower case ‘j’ on join here, yet there are initial caps on the cards – where is Harry Hill when a decision needs to be made?) Anyway, I think all this printed bumpf and waffle is a waste of money and resources and it makes me wonder if it holds a mirror to the whole event...
After the tour some of us went to the King Edward pub. In contrast to the Olympic site the pub hasn’t changed much over the years; it’s still only two storeys high with etched glass, stained wood and tiled walls. We discussed the tour and how it was a shame that we never got an opportunity to get off the bloody bus to get some better photos (hence the reflections and dirty windows evident in a lot of our photographs). Ian suggested they should employ an open-top bus. Genius idea.
But I am glad I went. it was really good to put faces to some other blogger’s names. And a big thanks, as ever to M@ who has loaded up some good pictures, videos and links onto the Londonist site. I have only put a few of my own images on Flickr but if you’d like to see more then you should check out Onionbagblog, Diamond Geezer, Ian Visits and, if you want to do some further reading, there's always the official Olympic Park website.