BBC BLOGS - Katharine Merry
« Previous | Main | Next »

Excited by Olympic vision

Post categories:

Katharine Merry | 09:40 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

If I squint my eyes I can see the vision. Like a volcano stirring and rumbling, the Olympic Park will explode with noise and colour, hopefully right on cue: Friday, 27 July 2012.

I have experienced three fantastic Olympic Stadiums in Atlanta, Sydney and Beijing, but have never visited one when it is being built.

I didn't know what to expect when I visited Stratford last week, apart from lots of hard hats and high visibility jackets.

The London Olympics ParkThe London Olympics Park is starting to take shape. Photograph: Getty

The area is huge, although it wasn't as busy as I thought it would be.

There was noise, dust and workers beavering away like little ants. There was no Seb Coe wandering around shouting orders with a clipboard, just lots of people grafting to build their own little bit of history.

It must be someone's job every week to stroll around and sprinkle some fairy dust.

The guys and girls I spoke to say they ooze with pride every day they come to work. How cool would it be to say in 2012 that you laid the bit of track that Jessica Ennis won Olympic Gold on?

I made my visit with sport mad Hertfordshire School Sports Coordinator Annie Thomas who regularly takes trips to the park with teachers, among others.

She brings them to get excited, which they do, so they can go back to their day jobs and share that excitement and really make all feel a part of the Games.

Our guide Jean, a local lass of 43 years in Newham, was in a constant state of excitement, nearly shedding tears of pride as she said, "They are my Olympics."

I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I saw pictures of how the stadium will look. It looks a bit plain to me.

I know we do not have the budgets that China had for the Bird's Nest Stadium or Sydney for Stadium Australia, in which I raced in 2000, but even after my tour I am yet to be convinced.

Am I being unkind? Maybe I cannot help but compare it to previous Games.

Chief architect Rob Sheard said the stadium would make a big impact, but not in the same way that previous Olympic venues have.

"This is not a stadium that's going to be screaming from the rooftops that it's bigger and more spectacular," he said. "This is just a cleverer building. This is a cleverer solution."

Looking at the whole park from a bird's eye view, it is clever and it's all coming together just like a big jigsaw puzzle.

Everything is taking shape and I can picture the British athletes in the stadium running, jumping and throwing in front of 80,000 expectant fans.

Trust me there is nothing like being in the cauldron of a capacity filled Olympic Stadium - 112,000 Aussies deafened me, Cathy Freeman and the others in our Olympic 400m final in Sydney, so I must make a note to give the heads-up to my mates how loud and emotionally charged it will be!

Artist's impression of the 2012 Olympic Stadium An artist's impression of what the London 2012 Olympic stadium will look like. Photograph: Getty

Some athletes initially groaned when London won the bid on 6 July 2005, with the allure of Madrid, New York and Paris in the running.

Now with less than two-and-a-half years to go, not one British athlete would have it in any other place. I felt a wave of jealousy wash over me when in the presence of the stadium. Could I make a comeback to run in London?

I snapped out of that dream very quickly. I can't even run for a bus now!

Like a contestant on a TV makeover show, this part of east London will be sparkling and ready to go when the crowds and athletes descend for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The stadium may not be as breath-taking as its predecessors but the prospect of seeing it full is still exciting.


  • Comment number 1.

    I hope Katharine is not wishing to see the picture posted on this report. It is of the original design of the Olympic stadium when we first bid for the Olympics. This is when the designs were innovative and thought provoking. Now the Olympic stadium is boring in it's design and is an embarassment when you compare it to the likes of Beijing's efforts. I live in Hackney, so the Olympic village is my neighbour. It's a shame they couldn't stick with the original designs that won us the right to host the event. It seems all you have to do is make up some elaborate drawings at the bidding stage and downgrade them all once you've won. Very disappointed!

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm glad to hear that it is all going so well and that so many folks are so proud to be part of it.

    Next time you see Lord Coe, perhaps you might like to get him to consider a quiet word in the ear of the Editor of the Daily Telegraph, where a particularly promising young journalist today wrote an article starting with the stupendously helpful words 'The Winter Olympics are so pointless that.......'

    I'm sure that such tolerant, insightful opinions will build great harmony in British relations with the Olympic family and that the benefits for British business as a result will be immense.

    It is a shame that such mild conditions appear to be resident on BC currently as allowing him the mind-altering experience of standing outside watching a ski-ing competition at -25C would be just the filip to allow him to enjoy the beauty of such cold, still, mountain air.......especially if he were inadequately kitted out for such a sedentary experience in the middle of winter........

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree with Andrew - the image is of the imaginary stadium that one us the bid. The stadium that is being built is rather dull, but is growing on me.

    I wouldn't say that it is being built on a shoestring though. You say that we don't have the budget that Sydney had for Stadium Australia - well that cost A$690 million, about £390 million. The London Olympic stadium is costing around £500 million, and over half the seats are temporary. And people moaned about the cost of Wembley - atleast that's permanent and an iconic design.

  • Comment number 4.

    Glad to see the picture has been updated. Now we can see the true beauty of the bowl of bore that is the new design.

  • Comment number 5.

    The cost of the stadium does seem on the high side considering that much of it is temporary although the site is challenging. There was talk of being able to sell the top portion after the games.

    Personally, I don't think London needs yet another iconic stadium, just a well-built medium-sized altheltics stadium to replace Crystal Palace. I hope the London games will set the standard for future Olympics to focus on athletes and great atmosphere rather than empty and superfluous "iconic" structures.

  • Comment number 6.

    Have to agree. The centre piece of the Games is the athletics track and it is costing alot to build and looks very ordinary. It would be like going to visit the queen and seeing that she lives in 3 bedroom semi! How can we bring the best athletes in the world here and not have them competing in a stadium that warrants the occasion.
    For Andrew above, who lives in Hackney, so say it's boring and embarassing says something as he must see it most days.
    I am hoping to get tickets in the ballot for athletics with my daughter and am sure it will be good when done, but have to agree with you Katherine, it is a bit plain.
    Will the athletes mind? I presume not.

  • Comment number 7.

    The Olympic stadium looks like a cake tin designed by a primary one child. Maybe it'll catch on. What is a real shame is the stupid idea that it will be reduced to a mere 25,000 athletics stadium. That's pathetic. The Olympic Stadiums are amongst the most fantastic stadiums in the world and chopping it down straight after the games is a sheer waste. It can still be an athletics stadium but why can't it be used for a football team like West Ham during the football season? It'd be even better than Wembley in hosting concerts - AND could be used as a new cricket ground very similar to that of the Melbourne Cricket Ground!

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh yes I forgot to ask......Does anyone know where the Olympic flame is suspose to go in the stadium set up? That big ball of burning fire that burns brightly all through the Games??!
    From the picture above I can see the screen and the results board in the distance, but where is the flame in the shot?! It may burn the roof down!
    Maybe they want to save money and not have it creating a huge gas bill over the Games!
    Answer on a postcard to:
    Bowl of Bore! (lol Andrew!)
    Olympic Park

  • Comment number 9.

    Yes - the design is not particularly 'iconic' but that wasn't really the brief. It's worth noting that both Beijing and Sydney haven't exactly been coining it in from their stadia. I know it's not exciting now, but the more flexible design may well have much better long-term credentials when people are able to use the building day in-day out for the next 20 years (hopefully).

    PS Rhys *2 - I particularly enjoyed your withering comments at aforementioned Telegraph journo.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ahh yes whinge about the Olympics, every bores right is to whinge, whinge it costs too much, whinge it doesnt look right.

    Personally i cant wait, its a once in a lifetime opportunity for everyone, workers, athletes, fans and those who will go to just to be there.

    One small change, Id also make a separate building with no windows and put all the whingers in there. oh and make it sound proof.

  • Comment number 11.

    But what is wrong with using it as a Cricket ground? It'd be enough to rival the maginificent stadia of Australia - AND of course it can be used for Rugby. With 25000 you won't even get the opportunity to host the Athletics World Championships in the future. You'd have a national sports stadium that can host rugby, football, cricket, major athletics events and even guest American football matches instead of a stadium which will be used as a cheap replacement for the Athletics British Grand Prix and no more. Yeah - some legacy.

  • Comment number 12.

    Im sorry but what about the people in the rest of the UK that have lost out due to government money being sucked South? Businesses in places like the North East that relied heavily on Local Authority Schemes have seen them dry up almost completely leaving a worse impact than the recession had.This is never written or talked about but businesses are suffering badly, people are losing jobs as a result and all because the government have overcommitted money that should be spread around the country, not just London. We in the North East will feel absolutely no knock on benefit from these Games.

  • Comment number 13.

    As a response to aobrien2's comment. Yes it is a once in a lifetime opportunity so why hasn't more effort been put in? This was our chance to show the world what we can do. Opinions on Britain will be formed from people watching around the globe and this is what they'll see. People will be remembering China and comparisons will be made. It's just a shame they couldn't have stuck their neck out and been adventerous. I am excited by the games themselves and look forward to the Olympics but as a resident in Hackney I'm also considering the legacy that these buildings will leave. Frankly it doesn't look good.

  • Comment number 14.

    The Olympics will be judged on the atmosphere, performances and sense of event that the British are great at. City of Manchester stadium isn't exactly interesting but the Commonwealth Games was fantastic because of the people and the city and the sense of excitement created around it.

    Once the London stadium is full of screaming fans I don't think anybodies mind will really be on the exterior of it and a few pillars here and there

    London will be transformed and the parks and streets will be awash with people and colour and events, the Olympic park with hundreds of thousands watching sports will be buzzing... unlike Beijing where you'd be lucky to find a sole outdoors half the time the locals stayed in with fear for being arrested! Beijing threw 40billion on a games that was so communist, so sterile, so regimented and drilled it became a little unenjoyable and bland outside of the live sessions at times, there was little sense of excitement other than what was broadcast within the venues... I know because I was there. I had a more exciting buzz on my skin at the Commonwealths in Manchester!

    If you don't like it don't come! There will be 1000 people waiting for the seats of each one of you who is bored by it all. We will all have a great time whilst you sit at home moaning on the BBC boards.

  • Comment number 15.

    Andrew, its not a matter of not making an effort, but where the effort is being placed. London shouldn't try to compete with Beijing and frankly isn't in a position to. The London showcase at the end of the Beijing games gave a taster that the games will be about ordinary and diverse people.

    All the Olympic bids from 2005 and 2009 (with the possible exception of Rio) have strongly focussed on 1. a compact games, 2. utilising existing venues, 3. embedding legacy into everything from the start. Sydney, Athens and Beijing didn't really do any of these things. In Sydney's case, we're still waiting for the Homebush legacy masterplan to fully kick in.

  • Comment number 16.

    Isn't the Olympic Games supposed to be a fraternity of nations coming together for sport? The clue is in the word "S-P-O-R-T".

    If I had it my way ALL future Olympics would be "back to basics". No more £20bn Games, no more oneupmanship virility symbols. There's something rather nauseating about it. Apart from anything else it limits which cities can host the Games; you have to be one of the mega-rich, it leaves a lot of the world out.

    How about countries hosting a games, not just cities? the current system often ends up leaving embarrassing white elephants, spread the new facilities around and it wouldn't be such a problem. As it stands it can lead to resentment that one city (usually the capital) is having a jamboree and a bucket of new facilities that the rest of the country is paying for.

  • Comment number 17.

    It looks more like a Spanish bullring from the overhead shots!

    Disappointing overall when you consider other venues in the world, it should be better for the overall cost.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm over in Cardiff, but I'm a huge fan of British sport and can remember the exact moment, waiting for the decision to be read out back in 2005 and have felt very proud since that we are hosting the games. Ok, it may not have the big iconic stadiums of Bejing, Athens or Sydney, but who cares. Its ours and from the deigns it will look spectacular in our own British way. The outer wall of the stadium is designed to have images projected on it, therfore making it a changing dynamic looking stadium. Also, I remember watching a tv program about olympic stadiums, most of the previous stadium are sat as white elephants, being underused and costing huge amounts to maintain. At least with the reduction of size in legacy mode, the stadium will be used more often and will pay its way. And yes, lots of funds have been diverted to pay for the games, but some of that funding will be finding its way back. Post games a number of the facilitie will be sold off to private firms and even the atheletes flats will be sold, pouring the money back into the other schemes. so yes we may have to wait a bit longer for funding, but it will be worth it, I only wish I was good enough at rowing or running to be able to compeate. I will be attending the games, I'm hoping to get to dorney for a day and perhaps have a day at olympic park and catch some cycling and perhaps some athletics.
    Also, I know rugby 7's doesn't come into the games until 2016, but why can't we have an exabition tornament, the home countires hold enough power with the IRB for them to agree, it would fill the stadium an extra two days during the firt week of the games when it sits empty. They could give medals out, athough they wouln't count towards the national table.

  • Comment number 19.

    I totally agree with a 7s exhibition tournament - in the home of rugby. We know from the Manchester commie games that they'd be able to fill the stadium. Glad that London won't be hosting golf though.

  • Comment number 20.

    For all thos bemoaning the 'moaners'. It is up to individuals to hold the organisers to account for what they're doing. If you're positive all the time regardless of what's being built then the government would take further money away from this project. You'd be sitting there with temporary marquise hosting all events and saying, 'Don't worry it'll great when people fill them'. You have to put pressure on the organisers to ensure minimum standards are at least met. Don't just sit there and say it will be great on the day, don't worry. Nothing in life will improve with that approach. I will be as enthusiastic as the next person when the games are on but when you are sent through the post, designs for the original games and then what is built is sub-standard in comparison, you're right to complain.

  • Comment number 21.

    katherine, you're link to the birds nest does not work :/

  • Comment number 22.

    I, like most I suspect, was quite dissapointed not to see the original design built. I do think it's important to remember why we won the bid, and that was the legacy. It's impractical to have everything designed down to the last door before you have the games, so the design was bound to be re-done, and was changed to allow the downsizing after the games. An elaborate design would also have cost the tax-payer even more.

    Ultimately, whilst it's disappointing to have a bland stadium, the focus of the games will be the track, not the building around it. To the lucky few who race on the track, and win medals in this stadium, it will be one of the most sacred places on earth.

  • Comment number 23.

    We always seem to be very keen to use our British negativity about any design of sporting venues. Surely, the important thing is, does it do the job of holding the required number of people, and provide a suitable location for the athletes to produce their very best proformance. What on earth does it matter what it looks like?
    Fashion seems to have taken over every aspect of ouir lives today, and I for one believes our sport at least does not need it.

  • Comment number 24.

    I very much agree with you that the design of the Olympic Stadium for London 2012 is extremely plain, and I shared your disappointment when the designs were released. I understand we are in a new age and I appreciate the sentiment of a stadium that can be dismantled and re-assembled to a more suitable capacity for long-term use for athletics. I fear the designers were too afraid of a 'white elephant'.

    However, there is hope. When this stadium design was released, it was to be covered in an enormous material 'wrap' that would take the place of a temporary wall, printed with imagery. I've been told that now the organisers prefer just banners. However, the architect of the stadium, Ron Sheard, apparently prefers the idea of a giant video screen wrapped around the stadium.

    This sounds incredible. Imagine an enormous stadium bathed in the glowing light of a video screen. It could look like the amazing Allianz Arena in Germany, but even better. Footage of what is happening inside the stadium could be shown, scoreboards, highlights, medal tables. As a moving image designer, I am incredibly excited by the possibilities of this. Patterns spiralling round the stadium, enormous shapes, symbols and pools of colour, info-graphics - all are possible. The stadium would be an enormous glowing, orb of light, spectacular from the outside, the incredible athletic feats happening inside. I just hope that this is possible, a truly plain stadium could be transformed into something amazing.

    I am a neighbour of the olympic park and have been an avid watcher of the building work and plans, both in person and online. Generally, I think the organisers are doing a great job - I just hope that they can make the Olympic Stadium look as good as possible. The opportunity is there.

  • Comment number 25.

    Reasons why this Olympics will be rubbish.

    1. "This is my Olympics". Sounds like something the lad Tony Blairs would say! Okay for someone who is a "guide". What about the 99.99999% of the population who can't afford to go, even though their tax money has paid for it, and will continue paying it for decades?

    2. The expectations on British athletes will be very high. When they inevitably come short, literally, we will have endless blogs and articles talking about population sizes, funding etc comparing us to foreign countries who do much better.

    3. Imagine if the government funded the Premier League football clubs? And gave huge contracts like they do to athletes with no proven track record, literally?

    4. The public has no connection with the athletes. We know who they are when the "plucky brit" wins some strange event, like the young lady falling down a snow slide recently, literally. The papers do their articles for a few days. But then we forget them. We don't really care about them. They are more privileged than Premier League footballers, because football generates it's own wealth - we can understand that. Athletics leaches millions (or billions, literally this time) from the tax payer. This is galling if your gas bill has gone up!!!

    5. The TERRORISM THREAT. Literally, if there is any hint of a terrorist attack BBC news 24 will be endlessly banging on about it, and security will be a nightmare. I can imagine them banning phones/cameras and that, literally, from the stadium, incase it is some form of missile launcher or a bomb!

    6. COUNTING THE COST. I have already covered this above so don't even ask me again about it!


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.