On Thursday 11 July I met up with Phil Askew, the Legacy Corporation’s man in charge of parklands and public realm to have a look round the former Olympic Park.
For years we had talked about the legacy transformation without much thought to what it would look like – just the end product on nice computer graphics. So at first I was a bit taken aback with the amount of construction going on; it looked like late 2010/early 2011 revisited! Then, of course, it became apparent: legacy is an active process and all this conversion work and reconfiguring the site is what we had planned all along.
Being my first visit to the site since just after the Paralympic Games, it took a while to orientate myself: the Basketball Arena had gone and was replaced with a temporary stage for the big music acts. The ‘wings’ had come off the Aquatic Centre and where before had been open concourse around the Orbit was now piles of earth. It was great to see some of the former wide bridges had been slimmed down, and the famous ‘spotty bridge’ in the middle of the site has given way to open terracing leading down to the now exposed Carpenters Lock. That will be fabulous when it is finished.
I was particularly keen to see the parklands and between all the earthworks and rebuilding, there are substantial sections of meadows and wetlands still intact and full of wildlife. The audible presence of reed warbler, reed bunting and grey wagtail, as well as the ever present sand martins buzzing around, and a lone kestrel, confirmed to me that the fundamentals are still in place and this will be a wonderful place to explore when it is finished and the landscape has settled down.