British Future headed off to Stratford this morning to get a sneaky peak inside the Olympic stadium ahead of this summer’s crowds.
Even the journey to the stadium is exciting, if you take London public transport options, the Docklands Light Railway or the Jubilee line. Both sweep past the edge of the park allowing arrivals to catch sight of the striking new buildings, the swoop of the aquadrome and the butterfly of the velodrome in the distance.
Exiting the train at Stratford it is not clear the Olympic signage is in place yet, but instead volunteers were dotted along the route. The thousands who will attend this historic sporting moment this summer will probably find more direction than we encountered, but we happily meandered through the byways of the gigantic new Stratford Westfield shopping centre until we found our way.
Clearly the Olympic site is not yet finished, but the overall look suggests it is well on track for the July 27th opening ceremony with many qualifying events already being held in the stadium
We were headed for the Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre, unknown to us at the time this new building’s design echoes the shape of a whale. The atmosphere inside was laid-back, rather than airport-style tension one might predict.
In fact the whole experience was very laid-back, and if this is the case in the summer, it will mean the whole thing is very easy to enjoy. The Aquadrome was not as big as I had expected, but it did mean wherever you were seated you were bound to get a good seat.
For anyone headed to the aquadrome for any events here this summer, my top tips would be to make sure you wear a t-shirt and buy some water, as it is warm. The building is as photogenic as the competition itself, so take a camera.
The mood of the crowd was more like a day out at the seaside than a high security sporting event. With tiny babies being joggled on knees, and people chatting to their neighbours about the mysterious intricacies of scoring.Cheers for competitors reflected a crowd from different parts of the globe coming out to support their team, but spectators quickly picked up other favourites. The Chinese female divers impressed with their ripple free skimming of the pool, and a Malaysian diver caught everyone’s sympathy as her dive was incorrectly announced and she had to wait several minutes before being allowed to compete, only to perform rather badly.
Overall the crowd’s rather chatty engagement reminded me of an American baseball game rather than most British sporting events with their specific crowd rivalry, rather a good sign for the summer. Polling for British Future, carried out by Ipsos Mori, showed that 64% of the public thought the Olympics would be good for the mood of the nation and only 11% thought it would have a negative effect.
For those interested in the history of east London, a good place to stop on the way back to the station is at East, an photographic retrospectic exhibition of Getty photographs of the area, with some amazing shots of how the area has changed. The black and white shots of the Jewish stallholders at Spitalfields markets, crowded streets, and even a joyful priest skipping through war-torn streets followed by entertained children are a great window on the world before this incarnation of modern east London.
Read more of our articles on the Olympics and national identity:
Olympic games is not an Anglocentric affair
Humour is great part of British Olympics
The real Olympic opening ceremony?
Olympic bosses should not let mad branding rules hit Games fever
Fans at Olympics say good chance for “everyone to come together”
Olympic torch journey has touched many hearts
Or watch our Olympic interviews and videos:
British Future director Sunder Katwala at the very first Olympic event of 2012
British Future at the Olympics’ first day
British Future interviews crowd at first match of Olympic Games
British Future interview with football fans at Olympic Games match in Cardiff