If fully a sixth of the world saw the opening spectacular, then there is a good chance that one building is going to stick in people’s minds about this Olympics – the grand central stadium. Looking resplendent on opening night with a green and pleasant Hobbiton at its core, giant inflatable brick chimneys, five glowing rings dripping with enough gold to put Smaug fully at ease, and the curious sight of trampoline-size hospital beds and what seemed like every go-go dancer in Britain shaking their thing to what seemed like every song ever written in Britain – the stadium was the centre of attraction.
It has never been the most beautiful stadium in Olympic history – but, like many things in this modern London Olympia, it seemed to be striving even more for dischord. The edge of the stadium was planned to be, how should we say: very spikey. Designed by Populous, with the ‘help’ of the AA’s architect du jour, ex-Archigram Peter Cook (or should that be designed by Peter Cook, with help of Populous), it has morphed over time into something less spikey – but certainly no more pretty. Maybe London just doesn’t do pretty any more.
Certainly London didn’t want to do pretty with the Logo – almost considered anarchist on its unveiling – or the “free sculpture” aka the tangled heap of red steel helix that is quite the worst sculpture the normally fantastic and sensitive Anish Kapoor has ever done. Here it is half-finished – it looks 10 times worse now that it is complete. Again, very Archigram, very Peter Cook.
But the issues of spikey or not put aside for one second, at least we have a clear viewshaft onto the stadium arena, no matter where you might sit – with the giant roof-mounted floodlights and camera positions way high on top. Apparently they are going to pay more millions to pull extra seating out of the stadium, in its post-Olympics role as a venue for one of London’s lower ranking Premier league football teams. I never quite understand why the need for deleting seats – surely it would be simpler just to leave them sitting there unsold – but in this case I am truly baffled. In a seating arrangement so simple and (dare I say it) perfect, where are you going to take the seats from?
But at least they haven’t got the debacle that is unfolding over the swimming venue. Its another of those bitch-fest slap-fights that the British do so well – he said, she said. In this case, in one corner, dressed in black, is the architects architect Zaha Hadid. We don’t need to tell you anything about our Zaha – she worked for us for years obviously, putting in that weekly column… and she firmly denies that she has any involvement in loss of sight-lines to the top of the 10m diving platform. The story goes something like this: she was asked to provide 5,000 seats with a view, and she provided 8,000 seats with a view. But the authorities sold 11,000 seats, and so understandably, many have missed out on seeing the action at the top of the board. They can still see the splash at the pool as the swimmer goes in, of course, but they are understandably annoyed. More Zaha and pictures coming up soon….