Tom Degun: From a wasteland of rotting fridges to a stunning vista of iconic venues, the Olympic Park has been transformed
Saturday, 21 July 2012
Security has unsurprisingly stolen most of the headlines due to the "humiliating shambles" that saw contractor G4S fail to recruit enough personnel to adequately provide protection for London 2012.
The issue saw the Government forced to step in and commit 3,500 military personnel to fill the security void for the Games following orders from Home Secretary Theresa May.
The move caused shockwaves across the UK, but in the grand scheme of all things London 2012, it is hardly a problem because all it actually means is that highly trained soldiers have replaced members of the British public who would have been given only the most basic of training.
If the worst happens during the Olympics, I know who I would rather have on hand. Every time I have been through the security checkpoint to get onto the Olympic Park, the military personnel have been smiling, polite, friendly and give the impression they are fully enjoying the experience of being part of the greatest sporting event on the planet.
Their demeanour is perhaps not overly surprising given that the Olympic Park is finally starting to look like the stunning location we all hoped it would be, after several years of building work on what was formerly rotting wasteland in East London.
I have for some time been a little underwhelmed with the venues of the Olympic Park, partly because I've spent so much time on it in the past few months during the test event series and partly because it always looked a little dull.
However, in the past few days, the predominantly purple and blue "look and feel" of London 2012 has been added, the flowers have started blooming and nearly all the ugly cranes and tractors used during the construction period have disappeared leaving something rather magnificent in their place.
On a recent media tour of the Olympic Park, led by London 2012 head of sustainability David Stubbs, several of my media colleagues and I were taken around the green parklands a short distance away from the Velodrome.
"We have cleaned up formerly industrial land, much of it contaminated, and opened up inaccessible riverbanks to create a new great park that will be enjoyed by people and wildlife for generations to come," Stubbs explained.
It is a wonderful addition to the greenest Olympic Park in history and seems almost magical when you compare it with the view described by London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe when the city was bidding for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"I was basically standing on a tower block half a mile from the Olympic Parking with the International Olympic Committee [IOC] alongside me looking rather perplexed," Coe told me in an interview recently.
"I said to them, 'You see that 50-foot mountain of rotting fridges, we're going to put an Aquatics Centre there'.
"I felt like a dodgy timeshare salesman as I tried to sell the vision for London 2012 back then."
Of course, we all know it ended happily as Coe spearheaded the London 2012 bid to victory in Singapore in 2005 before being appointed Organising Committee chairman and leading us successfully to this point.
Business has now really picked up with the arrival in London of IOC President Jacques Rogge, the most powerful man in sport, and the next few days will see the finishing touches put on what will undoubtedly be one of the greatest Games of all time.
It will be athletes like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Jessica Ennis who become the stars of these Games and who create a special kind of history in the iconic venues on the Olympic Park.
But it must not be forgotten how far, in such a short space of time, the piece of land in Stratford has come to look so truly resplendent – and come the Games, it will provide the perfect backdrop for the world's best athletes to become true sporting icons too.
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.