UK

Olympic Park calm before 2012 Games open

Olympic Park

An estimated 1 billion people are expected to watch the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday night, so what is the Park like just before the Games begin?

It seems to be a different world, beamed down in the east of London.

The sun is blazing on the open, hard surfaces of the Olympic Park in Stratford and the white PVC and steel and wood-clad venues are bleached out against the blue sky.

It may rain on the London 2012 Games venue on Friday morning, but it is like a furnace on Thursday, with temperatures in the high 20s.

It's like a different country's Games have popped over to play. Conditions are a far cry from the rain and cold of earlier summer test events .

There's a slight breeze. Just enough to fly the coloured London 2012 flags on poles across the park.

VIPs are being ferried about the place in golf buggies.

The vast space is a quiet contrast from the city around it as spectators are shut out of the main sweep of the park until Saturday morning's swimming, basketball and handball sessions.

Quiet, that is, apart from a bunch of caffeinated kids.

A group of 350 drama students and graduates who work as fizzy drink promoters are practising their moves, whoops and chants and are frequently the noisiest feature of the middle of the park.

Image caption Much of the noise on the Park comes from drinks promotion dancers

They will entertain the crowds come Games time and have been out preparing in the sunshine for days.

"This is an amazing place to be at the moment," says Emily Boree. "Because the rest of London is such a crowded busy space."

It's busy behind the scenes at the media venues, athletes' village and staff canteen where some of the Games cast have already moved in to work.

Already it's too much for some. At one of the outdoor eating areas, a man is dozing in the heat, head down on a table. Asleep before it starts.

It is clear the Park is not 100% ready. Canal boats and RIBs are loading up fireworks for Friday's opening ceremony in the river. Gardeners are putting finishing touches to pipes in the flower beds.

After so much rain has turned to heat and sunshine, the park's wildflower meadows and lavender fields smell intense.

"It's so beautiful here," says Anna Modelo, who has worked on logistics in the park for four years and is looking out over the green lung of planting and lawns that slope down to the River Lea.

Image caption It's not started yet. But a snooze is in order for some

The prime minister has visited and inside the Olympic Stadium there are rehearsals ahead of Friday night's show, not yet sold out. Questions remain over what Locog will do with the remaining tickets.

Other venues are almost dressed and ready for their events.

At the outdoor hockey venue, South African women are training in the afternoon sun.

Venue media manager Richard Stainthorpe climbs up the empty rows of plastic seating to show off the view.

In the foreground, the vivid blue and pink synthetic surface is being sprayed by jets of water between sessions. The main stadium and Orbit tower lie behind, the offices of Canary Wharf in the distance.

Image caption Richard has until Sunday morning to be ready

Scaffolders are tightening the sleeves on the stands underneath his feet. A massive London 2012 sign in pink and black jagged script is waiting to be put up.

"It's an incredibly striking part of Olympic Park," he says. "It's really putting hockey on the map."

He has until 08:30 BST on Sunday morning when New Zealand's women play Australia to be ready.

At some venues the sport starts later in the two week schedule. The Olympic Stadium has a week to execute a set change from celebration to athletics mode.

Some of the internal doors are off inside the Velodrome. Just a couple of them are laid out across work benches for repair and painting in Locog purple.

Its deadline is Thursday 2 August, when the likes of Victoria Pendleton and Sir Chris Hoy compete in the team sprint.

Team GB's prime spot in the centre is already marked out and competing nation's flags are strung out across the span of the roof ready for the roar of competition.

Image caption Other venues, like the Velodrome, have longer to prepare

But it is so muted here that you can hear the air conditioning purring away.

Out in the heat of the wider park, the concessions stands are preparing, but they're a mirage of temptation in the sun. The cold drinks aren't yet for sale. Or the food.

The two-tier champagne and seafood bar opens for business selling bubbles at 07:00 BST on Saturday. The manager Neil Sheppeck expects to feed 1,400 people a day and sell about 700 lobsters daily.

He has just 24 hours to put up the artwork still leaning against the wall before security closes much of the site for the opening ceremony.

No corks have popped in celebration at Olympic Park, just yet.