On the drive back yesterday from East London I was at first awed by the gorgeous sunset over, as usual the Asda car park in Leyton. Oooh, the glamour, but it really was lovely. Then I glanced left and was amazed at the changes to the Hackney Marsh/Leyton Mills/Stratford landscape.
It is all becoming new and modern and shiny, the Olympic stadium can be seen very clearly, plus I think some of the accommodation and well, all sorts of structures. Three years ago the land there really was quite derelict - there used to be a big road junction, with some travellers camped underneath, a cycling track that was shut and covered in glass, a road with some industrial units on it that led to Hackney from Stratford. Cunningly this road also had lots of warren like used car parts shops, well I hesitate to use the word shop, sort of caves with men who knew exactly where all the bits were - if they just climbed over mountains of metal. Oh yes, there was also a big yard full of old fridges. The fridges never reduced in number as far as I could tell, but just sat about leaching evils out.
Perhaps that is unfair - there were also some allotments, people who ran the local business' were apparently not paid enough to sell up, and I guess there must have been some kind of community down there as I think there was a cafe. We also used to live very close to the site, so were never terribly keen on the area. I have to say I'd rather the Mayor of London had greened over the polluting A12 rather than built over any allotments. The air quality in Leyton, particularly down the High Road used to be so bad sometimes I'd worry I should not take my baby out in the buggy to the library as his head was level with the traffic fumes.
Anyway - the Olympic area looks great, and I understand it is now on time or ahead plus running to budget, or at least to the new budget. The challenge will be to make sure the whole area benefits; that walls are not put up around the site to stop locals getting in (as in Canary Wharf which only has one little path from the traditional poorer areas). And that somehow the money gets out to the local area, as well as letting people in.
An intriguing problem - one which I have to say I don't have enormous faith in Seb Coe (Conservative and I think, according to my mum once spat on the ground), and Boris Johnson (so obviously Conservative, albeit with a big bit of Posh and sometimes a smaller c) sorting out. But good luck guys, don't forget we're all watching you though - and it is not to see how many medals we get).