The Olympic Stadium reviewed

I had the good fortune to visit the Olympic Park last Friday - the highlight of which was a tour of the Olympic Stadium itself.

It's a hard thing to disassociate oneself from the 'Olympic experience' and concentrate on the legacy that will be our ground, but I'll give it my best shot. There is no doubt however that the Games will be an incredible spectacle here and the whole site is simply magnificant in so many respects.

A bloody shame - criminal, actually - that the ticket allocation is such a scam. Anyway, here's my impressions from a West Ham supporter's perspective.

1. The approaches to the stadium site will be cracking and that will help create an atmosphere in itself, in complete contrast to the Boleyn Ground. You'll either access it through the Westfield Shopping Centre, the residential areas (ex-athletes village) to the South and East, via the A12 to the west and north or by local roads. From the south and east in particular there will be a tremendous sense of revitalisation and vibrancy and, dare I say it, a 'feel good factor'. Everyone will pass close by the iconic Aquatics Centre (by then the Newham Town Baths).

2. For the Games, the areas around the entry points for the stadium are to be reserved for a variety of food and beverage, official merchandising and sponsers retailing (basically tent-type or free-standing). Thus the immediate vicinity around the stadium is very spacious and I imagine will be kept for matchday refreshements, merchandising etc. This will get people to the ground itself earlier and create a 'closer' atmosphere around the ground.

3. At present you approach entry to the stadium at above 'ground level'. This gives the impression of the ground being a 'bowl' below ground when in fact that is not the case.

4. The stadium is very black and white (literally) in appearance but is not a concrete-dominated structure at all. The walkways are wide. The only colour is provided by 54 (IIRC) different coloured perspex-type glass sheets that are used to infill the structures at the various seating sections. At night these would look stunning - if changed to claret and blue, of course.


Views from behind the goal

5. In my view the stadium location vs. Boleyn is superb. Transport links are excellent; bus, tube (a new tube station is planned), rail (Crossrail will link in as well as existing lines to Stratford) and road (to the North and West). However there is very little parking - just the Westfield car park and current parking at the north west end of the site for the media centre, if retained. It will be SO much easier for most people not living within spitting distance of Upton Park.

6. The stadium is not as sanitised or industrial as I had imagined. And this should improve once we spend money on kitting it out to our specification. It is modern but classic - very much in the amphitheatre mould than most new stadia I can think of.

7. The seating is not steeply banked at all and that is a pleasant surprise. They are also quite spacious compared to the Boleyn with better apportioned space between the rows and aisles. Another plus. The posh stands already have wider 'armchair' style seats which i magine will be retained.

8. The sightlines and views to the pitch overall are absolutely terrific from any stand or vantage point. There are zero obstructions to any view anywhere; no stantions, pillars, barriers etc. I will come back to the topic of football pitch sightlines in a bit.

9. There is already an obvious corporate box area on at least one side of the ground which is equipped with boxes and VIP areas. This is along the north (or east) stand (I think), nearest to what will be the 100 metres track. This has seperate access points, escalotors and bomb-proof glass partitioning - which may be useful if Sam Allardyce hits a losing streak. Behind this seating are existing hospitality areas, which I assume are re-usable.

10. One negative is the roof and I hope this will be addressed. Maybe a lot of the cost is in this area. Currently it only covers to around half-way down the stadium, is made of some sort of synthetic fibre and looks like a stretched canvas cover. It is not a 'proper' structure and I doubt will be functional in an English winter.


Looking along the side of the pitch

11. Another potential negative: the best seats in the house will obviously need to be covered, but these are (currently) at least half-way back up the stadium and then to the top of the stands where the 'footballing' view is at its worst. That creates a dilemma. I spent most of my time there at mid-height and I must say i'd be happy to watch football at that distance/vantage point, from any side of the ground.

12. There are large areas of the ground that currently are outside the Olympic 'pitch' but to be fair I dont know the measurements required by the IOC versus the FA. Most especially to the North Stand (VIPs). The pitch will need to be re-sited so bear that in mind when looking at the views. Looking at the design, I can't see how there is a retractable seating option that offers anty sort of acceptable view - unless they sink the pitch lower into the ground!

13. I would expect West Ham United to extend the grass pitch area out towards all sides of the ground - even if it's not enlarging the playing area. For sure, we must opt for the largest sized pitch permissable.

14. Overall. It was not as bad as I had expected distance-wise, especially given that the stands are not steeply banked so there is limited sense of 'height'. The bonus will be access and the surrounding areas and the internals of the stadium itself. I can forsee a problem with juggling the best seats with the best view regarding roof cover and stadium position - and I dont see the 'retractable' option myself. I was told by an official that by covering (temporarily) the running track the sightlines are automatically improved! Again the issue i see here is in retaining the 100 metres track which will always create a lop-sidedness, not unlike the current problem with the East Stand at the Boleyn...

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