19 November 2012

Sneaky peek into London 2012's Aquatic Centre!

The wonderful Olympic Park in London is closed at the moment as it is being transformed into a public park with amazing sporting facilities. This is due to open next year, a year to the day after the opening ceremony - remember that uplifting, bonkers, inspiring show from Danny Boyle? Of course you do!  

However, I was lucky enough to sneak into the park for a tour of the Aquatic Centre, scene of so many brilliant performances, not least from our own Ellie Simmonds. The venue is also building site as they are removing the additional seating which was in 2 'wings' on the side of the whale shaped aquatic centre to house the extra thousands who wanted to see the Olympics and Paralympics.  You can see from the first photo one of the wings facing you and the pool emerging on the right - and the Olympic stadium beyond on the right. 

Aquatic Centre

We started our visit at the practice pool which has the very top end of swimming pool technology as does the whole venue. The pool is heated to 26 degrees and the outside air would be 27degrees. The floor can be raised and lowered to achieve the ideal depth for athletes and the boom you can see in the pool can be moved so that it can form one or two pools. The public will be able to come in for a swim next year and the pool will be split into a children's and adults' pool.
Practice pool
 We wandered through all the corridors and machinery rooms, admiring the filtration plant where the water is completely cleaned through massive tanks of sand every 4 hours. The areas behind the scenes are spotless and a real insight into the pride taken into the venue by all those who work there.
Filtration tanks
 A couple of side windows gave us a really unusual underwater views into the pools. Apparently these were used by the BBC to get their great footage of the swimmers powering through from below.
 Before we got to see the main event - the competition pool - there was a photo exhibition showing the stages of building this marvel. This photo shows how they put the roof on first and then dug and filled the pool before putting on the sides. This was one of the first buildings in the Olympic Park to be completed, well ahead of the Games themselves.

Still some way to go!
 I was so excited to see the competition pool as I didn't managed to bag any tickets during the Games themselves but watched it all on the TV and as we walked in through the door the swimmers emerged from I could imagine the roar of the crowd and only just stopped myself from giving a wave! The pool is beautiful and very big, especially in the eyes of a non swimmer!  Behind the pool in the photo you can see the rows of yellow seating  which are being dismantled and taken away. The new wall will fit into the slot in the roof as it was designed to be amended post Games and will emerge as its intended whale like form and be a most beautiful shape emerging from the park.
The competition pool
 We all loved seeing the many 'no swimming' signs, aimed at the staff who are no doubt tempted to dive in.
The best swimming pool sign!
 I stood right by the podium where the swimmers hold themselves ready for the start and could only imagine the tension and the excitement as they look ahead down the lane and wait for the gun.
Marks, get set, GO!
 We turned round and saw the looming dive boards including the 10 metre one which is incredibly tall and impressive. I can still see Tom Daley waiting for his second attempt at the  dive he retook and have even more admiration for him now - the lower boards looked quite high enough!  They are beautifully made, curving concrete over a pool which has a special water fountain in it in case a diver gets into trouble, they will be pushed up by the water. More hi tech thinking in this top venue
The diving boards - soooo high!
I'll be back on my Christmas theme in my next blog but couldn't resist this one.
Bye for now

14 November 2012

Enjoying autumn in London - great exhibitions

Enjoying autumn in London is not just about the beautiful colours in the parks and views along the river Thames but also about the blockbuster exhibitions.  London is famous the world over for its museums and galleries and they host some amazing exhibitions, particularly in autumn.   I've been to a few good ones recently so here they are!

Firstly, just one photo of the great colours in Hyde Park:
Hyde Park colours
Ansel Adams is one of the most famous and influential photographers in the world and his new show at the National Maritime Museum takes his love of water as its theme, Ansel Adams: Photography from the Mountains to the Sea.  These wonderful black and white photos span his whole career starting with a first showing of his first photo, taken at the age of 14!  He was no longer going to school at that age so his parents sent him to the World Fair in San Francisco, where they lived, to see the world and its artists on display. It seems that was time well spent and his first photo, which features a water reflection, was the start of a journey which led to the extraordinary large scale prints of Yosemite that he is most recognised for.  He was a pioneer of both scale and the eye popping detail he achieved in his studio where he printed every shot himself. 

The massive prints are taller than me that's for sure and come from a private collector in Texas who had real problems getting them up to the room for display and had to put them on top of the lift to manoeuvre them through to top floor. I'm sure they looked great there and the procedure had to be reversed to get them out for this exhibition.

We were shown around privately by the curator, Philip Prodger, and were allowed to take a few photos but sadly that's not the case normally.
The man himself

One the right is his 1st photo

These are taller than a person!

Amazing quote

His famous Yosemite photo on the right
The National Maritime Museum is worth spending time in as it's full of wonderful exhibits including the coat that Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar and you can see the hole where the fatal bullet entered - luckily he'd already won the battle!  Outside the museum is my favourite piece from the 4th Plinth art project in Trafalgar Square - Yinka Shonibare's Ship in a Bottle. This witty piece is a 1:30 scale model of Nelson's ship The Victory (good name!) with sails symbolic of African identity, linking Britain's maritime and colonial past. 
Yinka Shonibare's Ship in a Bottle

 In complete contrast, I visited two fashion based exhibitions. The Hollywood Costumes at the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the best presented shows I have seen in a long time. They use video and computer generated information boards to bring to life a huge number of iconic costumes from Darth Vader to the Adams Family, a Wookie to Dorothy's shoes, from Indiana Jones' outfit including the whip and how it works to Jonny Depp's pirate outfit.There are great case studies of the process which takes a script through to a finished set of costumes in films such as Ocean's Eleven.  No photography is allowed inside so you'll just have to go and enjoy, or read the V&A's own account.

 The other fashion themed exhibition is Chanel The Little Black Jacket at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea. They had the great idea of taking the famous Chanel black jacket and getting a range of celebrities and artists to wear it as they wished and it looks completely different on each person. The lighting was a little underpowered and we thought having a jacket for each visitor to try own and take their own photo would have just made the show. However there were some fun shots to see and it's amazing how one garment look so different. You can pick up a free poster and of course buy Karl Lagerfeld's new book featuring all 113 photos!

Sarah Jessica Parker

A wall of little black jackets!

Another take on the jacket.....
 It's a busy time in London - when isn't it!  So I hope to be posted a few shorter blogs very soon.
Bye for now