The Sewage Olympics

The quaintly named Bromley-by-Bow tube station sounds like it should be the perfect starting point for a scenic walking tour. However, as you exit the station, unceremoniously deposited alongside the A12, the charm wears off quickly.

But don’t despair. A quick walk through the urine-scented subway and past the Tesco car park, and finally you arrive at the official start of your walk — a walk which will take you along polluted riverways, past scrap yards and broken-windowed factories and underneath the sewage pipes that transport most of greater London’s human waste.

Welcome to the Borough of Newham’s newest tourist attraction. Welcome to the home of the 2012 London Olympics.

Never mind that a primary selling-point of the Olympic bid was that the site is currently a virtual wasteland in dire need of regeneration; this hasn’t stopped five borough councils from… erm… jumping the gun. The councils have jointly produced a glossy brochure and map encouraging visitors to ‘Visit the Olympic host boroughs today!’

I took them up on their offer this week, and whilst I cannot say that it is London tourism at its finest, it is strangely interesting. Regardless of your personal views on the London Olympics (and I will confess that I think the whole thing is a colossal waste of money), it is well worth spending an afternoon seeing – and smelling – the future site now, before it is forever changed.
The one bona fide attraction, for me, was the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, which has got to be one of London’s most peculiar buildings. This Victorian so-called ‘Cathedral of Sewage’ features an ornate Byzantine design that belies its purpose – to house sewage pumps. It’s no surprise then that the whole area smells, well, like shit. And it makes one wonder whether all of the world’s finest engineers can do anything to improve this particular feature of the future Olympic village.

Come to think of it… this could make things kind of interesting. I think I’m starting to look forward to the Olympics now.

1 Comment so far

  1. Nic (unregistered) on June 26th, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

    A friend of mine used to live very close to Hackney Wick. I’m tempted to follow this route with a fresh insight into how it’ll all change. Thanks for the post!

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