I love the Olympic Stadium: the sheer majesty of the arena, and the fact that Britain has something approaching its very own sporting citadel. It stands as proof positive that the country is capable of building high-profile arenas on time, and on budget, after the shambles that was, and is, Wembley Stadium.

Full house | A year on from the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Olympic Stadium remains a special place. (Image | CBBC)

Full house | A year on from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic Stadium remains a truly special place, but one fraught with problems and contradictions. (Image | CBBC)

I love the sense of reverence you can feel from people as they make their way to the stadium. An intangible feeling of being part of something that is bigger than themselves.

I love the piquant aroma of positivity that seems to emerge from the place, like a perfume counter, making all that are in it feel a little more optimistic about life.

I love the way the stadium has been assembled, from the sightlines, which give almost every member of the crowd a clear view of the action, to how it is framed when the floodlights are turned on. It is truly a beautiful sight.

I love that despite Britain’s obsession with football, the Olympic Stadium has given track and field athletes the opportunity to display their own sporting brilliance. I love that in all the wrangling over the ownership of the stadium after the Games, the running track will remain.

I love that the world’s best athletes will return to the arena in 2017 for the World Athletics Championships. Make no mistake, without the Olympic Stadium, and its running track, this would never have happened.

I love that it was the setting for the greatest day in British sporting history (yes, even better than England winning the World Cup). I love that it is now a space where Paralympic athletes also feel comfortable, and know that it belongs to them as much as it does able-bodied athletes.

I love the helpfulness of the staff, and the impressive efficiency with which they dispersed the best part of 60,000 people after the Anniversary Games last Friday, showing that healthy and safety and politeness are not mutually exclusive.

I love the way in which it provided the stage for Usain Bolt, arguably the biggest show-stopper in sport since Muhammad Ali, to cement his place as one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen.

I love that is has managed to cut through the cynicism that tends to be the norm for so many Britons. It has fostered an environment in which people are able to show the best of themselves without being sneered at.

I love the fact that it has given the next generation of athletes somewhere to aim for. The ghosts of glory laid down by Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, David Rudisha, Hannah Cockroft and David Weir are an inspiration to young children, both at home and further afield.

Most of all, I love the Olympic Stadium because it is a place able to inspire belief in so many that special things can happen.

Despite all this, my relationship with the Olympic Stadium is by no means a one-sided affair. I hate the fact that, despite the Olympics being a haven for corporate sponsorship, 94 per cent of the funding that went towards building it actually came from the state.

Even though the running track remains, I hate that it has been necessary for a football team, West Ham United, to take over the stadium and prevent it becoming a multi-million pound white elephant.

I hate the fact that the majority of the crowd inside the stadium are white, and judging by the accents, largely upper and middle class. As journalist Mark Perryman said recently, there were plenty of black and brown faces. They were on the track competing and working in the Olympic Park.

I hate that, in the aftermath of the Olympics, grand ideas of transforming London’s East End have been exposed as empty PR talk. I hate that one of the local boroughs, Tower Hamlets, has a youth unemployment rate of 55 per cent.

I hate that LOGOC located the stadium in an area of London that was in dire need of development, only to price many of its citizens out of participation, and trample over local businesses. Regeneration ended up looking more like gentrification.

I hate that the stadium has followed the maddening trend we see in many other arenas. Organisers are more concerned with making it a “day out” for the casual viewer, rather than trusting in sporting excellence to entertain, and the prices charged for food and drink are obscene.

I hate that public address system emits an incessant dirge of chart music, because heaven forbid that a crowd might be able to generate its own atmosphere. This is all part of an ever-alarming trend to turn sport into something we watch, rather than something we do.

I hate that the Olympic Park has been renamed the “Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park“, and that this name change has gone unnoticed, despite the lack of a connection between the Royal Family and sport.

I hate the fact that politicians have tried to piggyback on the brilliance of what place at London 2012. I wonder if it is lost on them that, as they appreciatively watch the likes of Jessica Ennis, Perri Shakes-Drayton and Christine Ohuruogu, they have implemented policies to ensure working-class athletes will find it increasingly difficult to follow in these stars’ footsteps.

I hate that, for all the legacy talk, there were no concrete plans to ensure that the Olympics benefited Britain beyond London 2012, lessening the chance of there being more glorious occasions like last summer.

I hate that if Britain were to become a less successful track and field nation, attendances would be likely to fall at future athletics events. I hate that while some like the Olympic Stadium, others view it positively only if it includes British winners.

So, a year on from the Games, it is fair to say that I am somewhat conflicted on the Olympic Stadium, what it stands for, what it has given us, and what it says about us.

Have your say | Tweet the author | @TGEISH

Back to Olympics

Twitter | @armchairpundit2

Facebook | The Armchair Pundits

————–

Interested in writing for The Armchair Pundits?

We’re always on the lookout for aspiring journalists, click here for details on how you can start contributing.

Advertisements