This week I was priveleged to be given a tour of the Olympic Park at Stratford. It was part of a drive within my organisation to get everyone geared up for the event (as well as to give us the latest 'be prepared for change' corporate indoctrination) because it will have such a big impact on us, more so perhaps than other Londoners. It was an impressive sight on what was a gloriously sunny day. Somewhat amusingly, the double decker red bus we were on broke down as we were exiting through the security gates at the end of the tour, but this didn't detract from a fascinating bit of sightseeing. Facts and figures from the irritating tour guide were coming thick and fast as we trundled around watching - and being watched by (at least in the case of the younger females on the bus) the gangs of workers dotted around the site.
The media centre, to be equipped with its own post office, launderette, shops and catering facilities, could accommodate 5 Jumbo Jets, wing tip to wing tip, across its floor;
the 17,000 flats built for the athletes were not fitted with kitchens, in order to avoid the risk of unnecessary fire alarm activations in the middle of the night; all heating and ventilation for the athletes' village was produced at a central CHP plant - contributing to the aim of making these the greenest Games ever; the cedar roof of the velodrome, designed with input from Sir Chris Hoy, was stained red by rhubarb juice;
the velodrome itself was naturally ventilated, causing spectators at a recent test event to complain of melting - though this again was the result of Sir Chris's involvement, and something to do with maximising speeds on the track; the lights on the main stadium, set to optimise high definition TV, were so expensive that they were only on loan for the duration of the Games;
200,000 condoms were being supplied for the athletes, and this translates to (ahem) roughly 8 shags per athlete. (although there are certain to be at least some of those with holes, and no allowance is made for lesbians or celibates in this number); trees to the number of around 40,000 were in the process of being planted.
I'm with Will Self, and think that the whole thing is despicable in the extreme, but it was hard not to be impressed - by the desperation if nothing else. Arriving at the venue, I opted not to wait 10 minutes for the DLR to Stratford International, but instead walked through the living hell of the Westfield shopping centre from Stratford regional station. Just like the millions who will flock to the Games come July. Here was the glorious end time of our consumer age writ large in neon and bold yet tasteful colour schemes. Here were play areas for the kids, classic rock favourites coming out of the loudspeakers, even outside the centre, and everything in the world you could possibly imagine and hope for. Most of the buildings (though probably not the world's biggest McDonald's)
on the Park are temporary and will be pulled down after the event, but of course the velodrome will remain, and either Spurs or West Ham or neither will call the stadium home. The pool will nestle in its stingray splendour among the 'greening' that is left behind.
The nation holds its breath, realising that the great Olympic dream is just a short term scam, and fuck knows where the economy will go once it's all over. But it's too late now.