The Olympic Steamroller

On the train out of Liverpool Street this morning I passed, or rather passed through, a vast construction site. The mounds of excavated earth dwarfing the people and cars beetling between them; the skeletal forms of giant structures rising out of a dense lattice of scaffolds. Obviously, it was the London 2012 Olympic site – what else, in Stratford, could be of such scale? Not that there were any signs announcing its purpose, bar one tiny banner on a stack of shipping containers put to work as site offices (clever idea, that.)

In true Brit fashion, I have been a bit of an Olympo-sceptic until now. But the sight of this colossal project, steam-rollering ahead, did trigger a little flash of excitement. There is something awe-inspiring, in a very simple way, about works on a massive scale, captured perfectly in the slave-turned-gladiator’s expression on first seeing the Colosseum: ‘I didn’t know men could build such things…’ I recall a similar feeling on visiting the near-completed Beijing Olympic park, but it has taken seeing it firsthand to realise that London’s might be the same.

Construction (and de-construction) sites are fascinating. Like watching an operation, you see how the parts fit together, and the strange disjunction between the whole messy process and the end result: a new, shiny, neatly-wrapped building. Anyway, as I suspect more people than just me have a tendency to cynicism about the London Olympic plan, I suggest they get out there and have a look at what’s going on. It is happening. It will happen. You might as well get excited about it.

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