A few days after the Velodrome staged an impressive test event, this week it's the turn of the Aquatic Centre to welcome the public. The building, designed by Zaha Hadid, will showcase sports in which Britain has a number of potential medal-winners in the likes of Tom Daley, Rebecca Adlington and Kerri-Anne Payne, and has long intended as the Olympic Park's signature building. I is, up to a point.
The Aquatic Centre's most impressive feature is the 180m wave-shaped roof that undulates above the spectators, and is said to be inspired by a swimmer's motion through water. It's a hugely impressive piece of architecture, although the low dip does tend to block out views of spectators on the other side, much like the Velodrome's roof. In order to cut costs, which spun from a predicted £75m to over £250m, the design was altered, and temporary wings of raked seating to either side replaced the original, all-inclusive plan, which has saved some money but diluted the overall aesthetic appeal. Entering through cut-away portholes in the wings, where the concession stands are sited beneath an Escher-like tangle of metal staircases leading up to the vertigo-inducing seats at the very top (screened off for this event), is also not perhaps the best welcome visitors will have to Olympic aquasports.
At night, when these wings are illuminated by a yellow glow, the Centre still looks special; but in the harsh light of an overcast morning it seems like a missed opportunity to show off what is a genuinely world-class building. London will get to see it in full glory once it is converted into a public swimming pool — but by then the Olympic cameras will be turned half-way to Rio.
Not that any of this affected the divers during event we watched, the men's 3m springboard. The competitors were received warmly for the most part by the 3,000 or so people in attendance, most of whom didn't seem particularly familiar with the sport, if the polite applause even for dives disdained by the judges was anything to go by. Predictably the applause turned to raucous cheering when the Brits took to the board. Team GB didn't do too badly on the day of our visit, with Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow leaving it late to pick up a bronze medal in the 10m synchronised event. If some of the hometown athletes can bring home the gold then few people will care about the efficiency savings that have slightly dented the Aquatic Centre's appeal, which remains the most impressive building in the Olympic Park, albeit one that has some way to go before we can fully appreciate it.
Read Diamond Geezer's report from earlier in the week for some interesting thoughts about the diving itself and the etiquette of towel usage.