Looking at London’s Olympic Stadium

By: Akiem Balium- Host of 10 Minutes on the Clock on The Real Sports Talk Network, and Blogger for TRST’s the Sports Realist. Follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem

Remember anytime you tweet during the Olympics use hashtag #London2012TRST to be part of a conversation with fans all over the world!

London, you’re charming us for your 3rd time.

The British Capital is no stranger to hosting Olympic Games. In fact, with the 2012 edition about to commence, London can now boast that it is the first city anywhere to host 3 Olympics. It hosted in 1908, and 1948.

For the 1908 Olympics, the Games main palace was White City Stadium which was demolished back in the 1980s. For the 1948 Games, Wembley Stadium hosted the Olympics Opening  and Closing Ceremonies. Of course, that’s the Old Wembley which is also now a memory in England’s history. The “New Wembley” opened in 2007 and isan international sporting hotspot.

Americans and Canadians of course primarily know the New Wembley as the spot where the New England Patriots demolish (insert of name of 4-12 NFL team here) mid-season.

But, these Olympics aren’t Opening and Closing at The New Wembley, they will be at the Olympic Stadium which was built on the East Side of the city in the borough of Stratford. Yes, New York isn’t the only place in the world with “boroughs”.

The new Olympic Stadium, which will host the among many events the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics.

The Olympic Stadium was only one of the 11 competition and/or non-competition venues that comprise the Olympic Park in Stratford. It was part of a regeneration of that city’s East Side which was barren and fallow before the venues were built.


There are many interesting features about the Olympic Stadium that somewhat make it good as well as bad. The main thing is that the organizers (LOCOG—London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games) didn’t bother to place any restaurants inside the facility. That can be attributed to only budget cuts.

If you are a fan of McDonald’s in London, they (being an Olympic sponsor) are getting major dibs on the Park. Right near the Stadium, they’ve managed to build what is being billed as the biggest McDonald’s ever. Great for McDonald’s fans, but you’re shunt out perhaps if you prefer Burger King or Wendy’s.

But, despite this one glaring omission from their flagship Olympics venue, it still has its quirks as does every Olympic Stadium. The most notable of these is the Stadium Wrap that was provided by Dow Chemical.

Given Dow’s involvement in the Bhopal (India) gas leak of 1984, many have been outraged and even protested at the fact that it was Dow providing this feature to London’s Stadium.

But, given the issues with the economy and, by association, the LOCOG budget, London had to settle for this version of a Stadium Wrap as opposed to an earlier version which would’ve featured it circling around the stadium with a colorful effect. Hieroglyphs of the different Olympic sports were supposed to circle around the stadium via the original fabric cloth wrap in addition to the color effects.

They’ve also used used a very unique lighting structure, using triangular light fixtures on the top of the Stadium. There was a rendering that suggested that a similar plan would be used for the Riverbank Arena Field Hockey venues also in the Olympic Park. Those have since assumed the more traditional rectangular lighting structure.

Here’s the thing though about this stadium: The Stadium Wrap wasn’t in the original plans either? The original plans did include an 80,000 seat stadium on the East Side in Stratford, but not with the triangular lighting, stadium wrap, or (as it’scalled in the UK) its shard-like “look”. The original stadium actually resembled more of a structure resembling something a mermaid would live in under-water.The outside looked like a cluster of bubbles from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

To be fair,though, most Olympic stadia rarely ever live up to their grand plans outlined in their respective Bid Books. Most of that, due to the cost overruns that comewith constructing Olympic venues, turns out to be show and eye candy for the International Olympic Committee (and 5-ring circus clowns like myself).

After the Games are concluded the stadium will be converted into a soccer venue. The two main football clubs that put up bids for the tenancy of the Stadium were West Ham United & Tottenham Hotspur. England also used the Stadium as part of its failed bid for the 2018 World Cup. There’s talk among Formula 1 types that the Olympic Park’s future use could be the construction of a Formula 1 roadracing track.

Now, when we think of Olympic Stadia, most automatically turn their attention to Beijing’s “Bird’sNest” of 2008. It doesn’t get more architecturally state of the art than did that megapalace the Chinese constructed for the 2008 Olympiad. That turned out to be a rare case of a stadium that was better in practice than in its bid design.

But, the Chinese operate with almost unlimited funds. They spent approximately $44billion on the 2008 Olympics.

London takes a harder look at its fiscal books moreso than does the Chinese. And it has certainly had an effect on the design and the construction of their stadium. It has certainly turned out to be a success despite the lack of eating facilities inside, but their design would’ve come closer to coming to pass if not for the economic meltdown of 2007-08.

One glaring question still concerning the Olympic Stadium is the location of the Olympic cauldron. Many details about the plans for their Opening Ceremony have already been spread out through the British & International media. But, if it’s any“surprise” Seb Coe and LOCOG have been able to “save”, it’s the location of the Olympic Cauldron. No one knows for sure where it is, but there is a strange-looking structure on the outside of the Stadium known as the Arcelor Mittal Orbit Tower. With no spot for a cauldron in sight (at least) for now, that could be where the flame is lit for the Games.

The original mermaid-dwelling like design for the Olympics had the cauldron being a simple flame above the Stadium’s main scoreboard.

It’s no Beijing, and its Opening Ceremony shouldn’t be expected to resemble Beijing’s.From looks on the internet, the Opening Ceremony looks to be more intimate and pastoral—as was Danny Boyle’s intention. He’s in charge of the Opening Ceremony.

London is well-known for staging events in grand style. If their New Year’s Eve events & the recently concluded Diamond Jubilee for the Queen is any indication,then the Opening Ceremonies should be another unforgettable London-style event.

The same goes for the Olympic Stadium which has a unique, interesting, (somewhat)controversial, and alluring identity in itself. Let the Games begin!

Below Akiem gives your a tour of every venue that will be used at the London 2012 Olympics. 

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Posted on July 26, 2012, in Olympics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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