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Our Man in London: Scenes from the Olympic Park

- August 13, 2012

Once again, we bring you Alastair Ruffles, with an insider’s view of the 2012 London Olympics:


Aside from the obvious things you find at the Olympic Park venue (sports stadia, merchandise sellers, overpriced beer) the London site at Stratford has incorporated a number of pieces of ‘art’ in to the design.

Foremost amongst these is the ‘Orbit’, a 115 metre structure which resembles an upside down tuba.  In actual fact it is in effect a reverse helter skelter:  you go up quickly by lift in the centre of the structure, before descending by foot round the twisting form at your leisure.

According to the official London 2012 website, after going through the ‘small, intimate entrance’ (or as we call it in Britain ‘a door’) you enter a lift with ‘viewing portholes’ (windows) to ascend to the viewing platform 85 metres above ground level.  Mind you, the same website also claims that the design was chosen because ‘the spiralling red structure successfully represented both London and the UK, and was reflective of the five Olympic rings’ which just goes to prove that you can’t believe everything you read.

Next we have an art installation by Monica Bonvicini, entitled ‘RUN’.  This time the official website suggests that the artist got her inspiration from a number of musical pieces, including ‘Running Dry’ by Neil Young, and ‘Run Run Run’ by the Velvet Underground.  Nothing to do with athletics, then?  However, I think I can see how the conversation went:

London 2012 Organisers:  “Hi Monica.  About your sculpture… we’re looking for something that symbolises London.  You know – proud history but with a modern vitality.  A diverse population focussed on a single goal.  Regeneration of slum areas, the spirit of the Blitz.  Perhaps throw in something about speed and endurance to mark the Olympic motif, that sort of thing?”

Monica Bonvicini – “I thought I’d just stick up the word ‘RUN’ in big ol’ letters.”

London 2012 Organisers:  “Brilliant.  Who do we make the cheque out to?”

Of course these are the new Austerity Games.  There are rumours that the initial project was to have spelled out ‘Rhythmic Gymnastics – All Round Individual” before the budget was cut.

And finally we come to the Beat Box.  When I first saw what appeared to be a collapsing house of cards in the Olympic Park I was confused.  Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?  No, it’s an Olympic record holder for the modern biathlon – corporate expenditure followed by pretentious clap-trap.

Fortunately, it came with an explanation:

The sign nearly has it right. The Coca-Cola Beat Box combines experimental architecture, sport, music and technology to create an unlistenable racket and a building that hurts your eyes if you look at it for too long.  Maybe I’m getting too old for this sort of thing.

Of course, the other explanation is that, given the distinctive colouring of the structure and the fact that ‘Coca-Cola’ is mentioned about 14 times in the surrounding area, it might just be a huge advertisement for the product.  Who’s to say?

Still the building does have its good points.  If you stand right next to it, you can’t see the world’s biggest and busiest McDonalds from there at all…