Friday, 10 June 2011

London 2012 Olympic Games: Olympic Park, Stratford - the view from Hackney Wick

My train is stuck in the station under a snotty hankerchief sky. Trains are backed up between Hackney Wick and Stratford at the congested end of the North London Line. The doors stay open so I get off and snap a few photos. 
   In truth, I'm a little wary. I only narrowly avoided being mugged and dunked in the River Lea during my last trip down the Wick.
    The floodlights on the roof of the new Olympic Stadium catch my eye, sticking out like bats' ears on east London's shy skyline. I zoom in on the triangular floodlight rigs. They suggest something else too...Pass the Dairylea cheese, please. 
   The red cornetto rising on the left isn't actually inside or attached to the Stadium. It's the cumbersomely titled ArcelorMittal Orbit, a 115 metres (377 feet) high steel sculpture and observation tower. 
   Designed by Anish Kapoor, I can't yet work out if it'll resemble a steel rose or a nose bleed. It should be finished by December. If you don't like it blame Boris Johnson, London's Mayor, and former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell. Boorish and Tess decided in 2008 the Olympic Park lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. 
Certainly, it'll be Britain's largest piece of public art, made possible by the deeply filled pockets of Britain's richest man, Lakshmi Mittal, chairman of the ArcelorMittal steel company. Lakshmi lashed out £16 million to help cover the sculpted tower's £19.1m cost with the balance coming from the London Development Agency, the capital's regional development body. 
   The sculpted tower celebrates Kapoor's creativity but also manifests Mittal's interwoven personal and corporate ego. It might also mark the LDA's monument. The cut-crazed coalition government wants London's growth promotion agency shutdown by March 2012. 
Looking over Hackney Wick from its elevated station, I can''t help but wonder if £19m might've been better spent creating jobs or building new homes. There seems to be a lot of local creativity. Just look at the graffiti.
   Finally, my train grabs a green signal, eases out of the station and quickly seems swallowed by the organised construction chaos inside the Olympic Park site.
    There's still over a year to go but politicians and media are already asking us to swallow loads of Olympic hype and mucus. Already, I sense distracted brain cells turning to snot. 

Click on images to enlarge. 
Photos: Copyright Paul Coleman. Not to be re-used without permission.

Paul Coleman, London, June 2011.
Click on images to enlarge. 
Photos: Copyright Paul Coleman. Not to be re-used without permission.

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