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The Olympic Park, London September 30, 2008

Posted by Michael Kowalski in work.
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As a supplier to the London games (er, am I allowed to say that? Signed a lot of legal fineprint on this one), I was invited on a coach tour of the building site last week. On the one hand, it’s mainly just piles of dirt atm. But a couple of things impressed all the same. First, there’s the sheer scale of it. Like space, it’s big, no really big. A vast chunk of London fenced off and given over to the forces of Olympicness. Haven’t seen anything like it since the Docklands building boom.

Second, there’s the recyclingness of it all. That dirt is all clean dirt. This part of the East End was formerly a squalid industrial zone, and who knows what dodgy contaminants oozed their way into the subsoil. So they’re digging it up, cooking it in these big blue soil cleaning machines, then laying it out and pumping (from memory) oxygen and some kind of microbes through it. They’re also recycling all the old buildings etc that are being demolished. So we drove past piles of bricks, paving stones, etc. The target is 96% reuse on site for this stuff. 

Then there’s the transport angle. There’s no parking for cars – all staff have to use public transport. Plus they’re widening the canal, with the aim that the majority of material that has to be shipped in will come by boat rather than road. 

Finally, they’ve clearly put a lot of thought into what happens after the games. We didn’t drive past a single future building site without a summary of its “legacy” use. This was a little bit less convincing; although various buildings will be downsized or moved offsite after the games, it still looked to me like there will be slightly too many sporting facilities of one kind and another left behind when the show has moved on. I suppose that depends to some extent on how successfully the area regenerates (ie. gentrifies) afterwards.

So, weirdly interesting for dirt. Hopefully next time I’ll be asked to go on one of their evening bat surveys.

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