It didn’t take long to say yes. Would I like to go to the Olympic stadium to interview Oscar Pistorius? My reaction to the kind offer from Sportsvibe left them in no doubt that I was rather keen to don my hard-hat and head over to Stratford to explore.
So I found myself on the DLR heading to the wonderfully named Pudding Mill Lane Station. Apparently one of the mills on the old industrial estate in the area was shaped like a large pudding and the name clearly stuck. Once we cleared security (please pull the weeds up by the accreditation hut, journalists notice these sort of things!) the assembled press pack hopped onto a bright pink bus and headed towards the stadium itself.
Like a marathon runner entering the stadium for their victory lap, day became night as we went into a tunnel and then emerged again into the bright sunshine and promptly drove down the home straight. Fortunately, the track hasn’t been laid yet so we weren’t in danger of doing any damage.
The first thing that strikes you is how clean the stadium is. I know it’s not a priority when you’re erecting a multi-million pound facility, but the attention to detail certainly helps set the tone. I was expecting a building site and to some degree it still is. Large red cranes dominate the sky-line and workmen wearing hard hats and fluorescent jackets are wandering around. But there were no noisy drills or over excited engineers because essentially the stadium is finished.The track has to go down and there’s more work to be done on the roof, but it looks like an athletics event could be staged there tomorrow. There won’t be any scare stories about London not being ready.
The stadium is not as big inside as I thought it was going to be. It’s actually quite compact which means even if you’re sitting in row Z, you should still get a good view. The seats are all covered in white plastic for now which made it feel a bit sterile, but standing there imagining Usain Bolt storming down the back straight, made it all seem very real. The roof space is dominated by the flood-lights which look just like the Aliens from War of the Worlds, about to bear down on the spectators. Anyone who says they don’t like the stadium will mysteriously disappear.
Will it become an iconic venue like the Bird’s Nest in Beijing? It seems like there’s something missing at the moment. Wembley was over budget and schedule, but its huge arch gives it an x-factor that the stadium in Stratford doesn’t have, yet.
But there could be a Piece de resistance. There’s talk of wrapping the stadium in colourful fabric which would display stunning moving images while also minimising crosswinds inside the venue. Imagine the television pictures beamed around the world, but it’s been cut from the original budget to save money and now needs private investment.
Yet you couldn’t fail to notice the twinkle in his eye as Oscar Pistorius spoke about his dream to run at the London Olympics and the Paralympics. Its athletes like him that will bring the place alive and carve the memories of London that will last a lifetime.
Photography by Rob Cox, Rob Cox Photography LTD