The wonderful Olympic Park in London is closed at the moment as it is being transformed into a public park with amazing sporting facilities. This is due to open next year, a year to the day after the opening ceremony – remember that uplifting, bonkers, inspiring show from Danny Boyle? Of course you do!
However, I was lucky enough to sneak into the park for a tour of the Aquatic Centre, scene of so many brilliant performances, not least from our own Ellie Simmonds. The venue is also building site as they are removing the additional seating which was in 2 ‘wings’ on the side of the whale-shaped aquatic centre to house the extra thousands who wanted to see the Olympics and Paralympics. You can see from the first photo one of the wings facing you and the pool emerging on the right – and the Olympic stadium beyond on the right.
We started our visit at the practice pool which has the very top end of swimming pool technology as does the whole venue. The pool is heated to 26 degrees and the outside air would be 27degrees. The floor can be raised and lowered to achieve the ideal depth for athletes and the boom you can see in the pool can be moved so that it can form one or two pools. The public will be able to come in for a swim next year and the pool will be split into a children’s and adults’ pool.
We wandered through all the corridors and machinery rooms, admiring the filtration plant where the water is completely cleaned through massive tanks of sand every 4 hours. The areas behind the scenes are spotless and a real insight into the pride taken into the venue by all those who work there.
A couple of side windows gave us really unusual underwater views into the pools. Apparently these were used by the BBC to get their great footage of the swimmers powering through from below.
Before we got to see the main event – the competition pool – there was a photo exhibition showing the stages of building this marvel. This photo shows how they put the roof on first and then dug and filled the pool before putting on the sides. This was one of the first buildings in the Olympic Park to be completed, well ahead of the Games themselves.
I was so excited to see the competition pool as I didn’t manage to bag any tickets during the Games themselves but watched it all on the TV and as we walked in through the door the swimmers emerged from I could imagine the roar of the crowd and only just stopped myself from giving a wave! The pool is beautiful and very big, especially in the eyes of a non-swimmer! Behind the pool in the photo, you can see the rows of yellow seating which are being dismantled and taken away. The new wall will fit into the slot in the roof as it was designed to be amended post Games and will emerge as its intended whale-like form and be a most beautiful shape emerging from the park.
We all loved seeing the many ‘no swimming’ signs, aimed at the staff who are no doubt tempted to dive in.
I stood right by the podium where the swimmers hold themselves ready for the start and could only imagine the tension and the excitement as they look ahead down the lane and wait for the gun.
We turned around and saw the looming dive boards including the 10-metre one which is incredibly tall and impressive. I can still see Tom Daley waiting for his second attempt at the dive he retook and have even more admiration for him now – the lower boards looked quite high enough! They are beautifully made, curving concrete over a pool which has a special water fountain in it in case a diver gets into trouble, they will be pushed up by the water. More hi-tech thinking in this top venue.
I’ll be back on my Christmas theme in my next blog but couldn’t resist this one.
Bye for now