Sunday, January 31, 2010
Olympic Park, London
31-01-2010: A walking tour
Having travelled past the Olympic Park on numerous occasions when travelling into and out of London by train, and getting tantalising views of the new Stadium and other stuff rising from the ground, today Mrs Extreme Groundhopping and I decided to take a much closer look. We could have made or own way to the site (see later) but opted for a Blue Badge Tour (and well worth the money it was too) which went something like this...
Starting off outside Bromley-by-bow tube station, adjacent to the less than scenic approach to the Blackwall Tunnel, we headed north for a hundred yards or so then veered off right past a Tesco and then onto Three Mill Lane. Here you enter a different world - that of the Lower Lea Valley. And very nice it is too, almost picturesque in an urban way.
The lane takes you past Mill House (a grade one listed tidal mill), Three Mills Studios (London's Largest Film and Television Production Studios) and onto Three Mills Island. In the distance is the Abbey Mills Pumping Station (known as The Cathedral of Sewage) and this as well as many other points of interest were enthusiastically and informatively pointed out by our tour guide.
Continuing along the tow path of the Regent Canal we headed toward and over the A11 across a bridge under which, legend has it, the body of Jack "The Hat" McVitie (a one time associate of the Kray Twins) is buried.
Picking up the canal tow path again for several hundred yards, past an old lock house, you reach Pudding Mill Lane. Here there is the formidable looking builder’s entrance to Olympic Park, a four lane affair a bit like the approach to the passenger ferry’s at the Port of Dover. You continue past the Pudding Mill Lane DLR station and make a dog leg under the mainline railway on to the Greenway footpath and cycleway and there it is - the Olympic Park.
From the Greenway there are very good views of the park but if you want to see the place from a slightly higher elevation the View Tube is off to the right. Built rather ingeniously using recycled shipping containers the View Tube offers a panoramic view of the park including two of its principal venues the Aquatics Centre and, of course, the Olympic Stadium, and entry is free.
We did the walk at £8.00 a head but you can of course see the whole thing for free by heading directly to Puddling Mill Lane DLR station from which the Greenway and View Tube are just a short walk away.
We plan to go back to check on progress in about a year by which time, if everything goes according to plan, the majority of the building work will be completed. In the meantime mixed in amongst the text are some pics from earlier today plus these two panoramic images...
Saturday, January 30, 2010
30-01-2010: Ipswich Wanderers 0 Team Bury 3 (Ridgeons League Division One)
Nothing spoils an afternoon at Portman Road more than the musak that is pumped out from the speakers around the ground as kick-off approaches. A few seasons back the decibel level was such that we would avoid taking up our seats until a few minutes before kick-off as there was no way you could carry on a conversation otherwise. Thankfully the volume has now been turned down but sanitised and atmosphere free elevator muzak is still the choice of those in the stadium control room.
So what a pleasant surprise it was to arrive at Humber Douchy Lane this afternoon where Ian Dury & The Blockheads were top of the bill music wise. Perhaps they’re on all the time now but this was my first visit for almost eighteen-months. Anyway, I had just settled on a suitable spot to watch the game from when the strains of 'Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll' sprung forth from the speakers and this was followed by, 'Wake Up and Make Love With Me', 'My Old Man' and, as the match officials and players took to the field, 'Blockheads'! Great stuff.
But the pièce de résistance was waiting for halftime when the Wanderers, three goals down, headed back to their dressing room to the opening line from the infamous 'Plaistow Patricia' which blarred out across Humber Douchy Lane before someone hastily pressed the mute button. This is of course the one line that assured the late Ian Dury a place in the accolades of punk rock history when the album New Boots & Panties, on which 'Plaistow Patricia' is the 9th track, was released in 1977 (if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about click here for the lyrics). Pure Class.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I have a list of football stadia, a sort of fantasy list, that I plan to visit should I become independently wealthy by virtue of a Euromillions win or some other highly unlikely stroke of good fortune. Firmly at the top of that list is Big Zero, or Zerão (full name Estadio Estadual Milton de Souza Correa) as it is known locally, which I first read about in Alex Bellos’s book Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life and while it may sit in, as he puts it, ‘Nowhere Central’, the idea of visiting a stadium where one half of the playing area sits in the southern hemisphere, the other in the northern one and the equator marks the halfway line is an intriguing one.
With just 615,000 inhabitants, but a land area roughly the same size as England, Amapa is the 2nd lowest populated state in Brazil. Despite the low population Amapa boast twelve professional football clubs, that’s one for every 51,250 residents. If England were to have a similar ratio the Football League would need to reorganize itself into 42 divisions of 24 clubs.
Over half of the states population lives in its capital, Macapa, which sits on the Amazon River and is enveloped by rainforest. As the countries fastest-growing state a population boom in the city means it is spreading inexorably outwards consuming the forest as it goes. When Big Zero was first opened in 1990 it sat on the city limits but it is now surrounded by suburban roads and homes. Before Big Zero the area was just a clearing in the rainforest with a 50 meter strip of concrete marking the Equator. This is now Big Zero’s task.
Financed by the state government the plan was that Big Zero would become a tourist site and possibly stage important national games but twenty years on and the stadium is falling apart. Only one of the four stands was ever completed and the roof of the one stand that was blew off in a strong wind. The single stand suffers from another design flaw. The floodlights along that side of the pitch sit between the touchline and the stand so no matter were you sit your view will be partially obstructed.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Estádio Vila Belmiro, Santos
Back in 1996 Sao Paulo and the port town of Santos 70 kilometres away on the Paulista coast were linked by a single highway - there are now two - the Rodovia Achieta (state route 150) a road which dates back to the 1920’s. As the main truck route between Brazil’s largest metropolitan area, Sao Paulo, and its largest port, Santos, it carries a huge amount of traffic, even at weekends, and it was on one of these that a work colleague, Jaime, kindly took me on a trip to enjoy Brazil’s Atlantic coastline.
This is one challenging road particularly on the approach to Santos as the highway winds and weaves its way steeply down from the Sao Paulo plateaux through a series of switchbacks, tunnels and viaducts. It’s a bit scary to say the least but what a view you get of the coastline as you descend through lush forest.
As the highway merges with smaller local roads there’s an interesting twist awaiting unsuspecting drivers. Unsuspecting drivers exceeding the speed limit that is in the shape of a succession of unmarked sleeping policeman! Jaime had two steel plates welded to the underside of his car to protect the transmission, exhaust system, etc., from an unexpected strike.
This proved to be ideal place to slow down, sleeping policeman or not, as you pass a plinth on top of which is mounted a distinctive yellow formula one motor racing helmet, a replica of that worn by the late Ayrton Senna. Another example of the way his country just oozes sport. There are reminders of its heroes – past and current - everywhere.
Santos is one of the oldest cities in South America and, as I’ve mentioned, Brazil’s biggest and busiest port. Half of the country’s exports, including much of the world’s coffee, pass through Santos. Jaime has a summer apartment a hundred metres or so from the beach between Mongagua and Praia Grande, directly to the west of Santos proper.
Between the two is a very impressive stretch of beach front – some twenty kilometres long - with what seemed like thousands upon thousands of variously shaped and sized apartment blocks and a similar number of variously shaped and scantily clad bronzed women. The area is said to rival the beaches of Rio and by all accounts is much much safer.
We were able to swing by the Estádio Vila Belmiro (aka Estadio Urbano Caldeira) home of Santos, perhaps one of the most famous club sides in the world, due in most part to one Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, aka Pele. It has the look and feel of a traditional English football ground, very compact, with stands close-to-the-action on the inside and hemmed in on the outside by residential streets. First opened in 1916 Vila Belmiro has a capacity of 20,120 although the record attendance stands at 32,989. Interestingly it had a floodlighting system installed in 1931 a good twenty-five years before the majority of Football League clubs even began thinking about such things.
It reminded me – oddly perhaps - of Derby County’s old Baseball Ground. The main stand is a bit of an oddity, wedged shaped to fit between touchline and street, while most of the exterior is covered in white stucco and bathed in sun year round which is were the comparison with it’s Derbyshire counterpart ends. For more pictures of the ground click here and for a more complete description (I would imagine as it’s in Portuguese) click here.
Pele was literally kicked out of the first World Cup I watched on TV, the 1966 one. I have little recollection of any of the games, apart from one, but not the Final itself (“some people are on the pitch” and all that) but the quarter final game between the North Koreans and Portugal at Everton’s Goodison Park. Rank outsiders, the North Koreans remarkably went 3-0 up in the first half hour before a Eusebio inspired comeback gave the Portuguese a 5-3 win.
Pele and Brazil had lost two of their three group games and failed to make it to the knock-out stage – a rare failure by them. Pele was kicked, tripped and generally maltreated throughout and in their third and final game – against Portugal – was carried from the field, and didn’t return, after a particularly vicious tackle by defender Morais (a match entitled the ‘Most Violent Game Ever’ on YouTube). Pele of course came back with a vengeance four years later in Mexico where, along with the likes of Rivelino, Tostao & Jairzinho, Brazil won their third World Cup Finals and the Jules Rimet trophy outright.
Pele had begun his career at Santos in 1956, at the age of fifteen, and remained with them for seventeen years, scoring well in excess of 1,000 goals during that time, before a move to the USA and the New York Cosmos in 1975.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Estadio Cicero Pompeu de Toledo, Sao Paulo
São Paulo, Brazil's centre of commerce, is a huge sprawling metropolis (3,000 square miles – population 11 Million) and quite easily the largest city in South America. It’s a big and some times a quite scary place (although safer than the more popular tourist destination of Rio I’m led to believe). Purse-snatchers on motorcycles are common and during my first visit I heard gun shots on two separate occasions. A week before my arrival there had been an armed hold-up in the office building my company shared with some sort of financial institution. This dampened my enthusiasm to earn some extra Reas with a few hours overtime. That aside I had a fantastic time there.
Coincidentally my brother-in-law was working in Brazil at the same time. He was billeted in a rusting survey ship moored off the Port of Santos while I stayed in the luxurious Crown Plaza in Sao Paulo, a block away from the Avenida Paulista a 3km long highway that slices through the financial district and is home to Sao Paulo’s major shops. Apparently the most expensive real estate in South America.
The São Paulo Jockey Club, the city’s thoroughbred race track, sat across the Pinheiros River from the office block I was working in and could be seen from my office window. The nearest football stadium, about two miles or so away, was the Estadio Cicero Pompeu de Toledo, known as Morumbi, the home of Sao Paulo FC. That’s not counting the five-a-side pitch, with a sand surface, at the back of a bar near the office where the guy’s from accounts took me one Friday evening for a game and a few beers. A better way of spending a Friday evening than the British concept of heading out to the nearest pub and getting rat-arsed.
Three out of four of the state of Sao Paulo’s football clubs, Sao Paulo, Corinthians and Palmeiras are located in the city itself. The fourth is Santos for whom Pele played between 1956 and 1974. More on him and them in a later post. Sadly I wasn’t able to watch any of these sides during my stay, although I had seen Sao Paulo play a decade earlier, 1982 to be precise, in a friendly against Ipswich at the Tampa Bay Stadium, Tampa, Florida (and I’ll perhaps cover that in a later post too). The four Sao Paulo sides have traditionally drawn their support along social lines. Sao Paulo is the team of the elite, Corinthians that of the masses, while Palmeiras (The Palm Trees) is the club of the cities large Italian community.
Sao Paulo’s Morumbi took some eighteen years to complete. Construction first started in 1952 but it wasn’t until 1960, with an initial capacity of 70,000, that the inaugural match took place. When finished ten years after that, in 1970, the official capacity had increased to a quite impressive 140,000, while the record attendance is a further 6,082 above that figure, set at a state championship game between Corinthians and Ponte Preta in 1977. The official stadium capacity has since been dramatically reduced to 80,000 all-seated.
Morumbi, one of the countries twelve 2014 World Cup venues, sits on the Avenue Jules Rimet (you don’t need me to tell you the origins and significance of that name to Brazillians) and is encircled by individual family homes rather than apartment blocks (many with their own swimming pools). The club is indeed that of the elite if the surrounding area is anything to go by. Oval in shape, with three tiers of seating, not only does it boast a unique floodlighting system (see the panoramic view here) but the clubs colour have been picked out in the seats in part of the upper tier in a distinctive wave pattern than is repeated around the edge of the playing area (see the panorama again).
Monday, January 18, 2010
Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro
In the mid 90’s, on my way to work assignments in Sao Paolo, I changed flights in Rio de Janeiro. Two different trips meant I made this change four times and thus either landed at or took off from Galeão International, Rio’s principal airport, on eight occasions. The airport is located just a few miles north of the city and you seemed to get some pretty decent aerial views of Rio regardless of the flight path. The big and inexcusable sin hidden in amongst this tale is that I didn’t take a camera with me on either of the two trips. What a numpty. If I’d had one to hand I would have been able to take a picture not that dissimilar to this one, as we soared over Rio’s famous beaches and its iconic landmarks...
...the statue of Christ the Redeemer standing atop Corcovado Hill, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Copacabana beach, Ipanema beach and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon were all NOT captured on my camera. Also NOT captured on camera was the Maracanã Stadium which we flew over on the last of my two return trips.
One of the world’s best known stadiums the Maracana - which officially became the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho following the death of the Brazilian journalist and writer Mário Filho who was a leading campaigner behind its original construction - will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics as well as the 2014 World Cup final, although at a significantly lower capacity than when it hosted its first major finals, those of 1950 World Cup.
Then an official attendance of 199,854 watched the final group match between the host nation and Uruguay, the actual attendance though is reported to have been around the 210,000 mark, the largest ever gathering for a game of football anywhere in the world. Brazil required a draw to finish top of the group, and to lift the Jules Rimet trophy, but Uruguay won the game 2-1. A result that remains deeply burnt into the psyche of many Brazilians despite the fact that five World Cup triumphs have since followed.
When first opened the Maracanã was the largest stadium in the world but despite its reduced all-seated capacity of 88,992 it is still the largest stadium in South America and fifty years on the place is to get a £175 million face-lift. As a classified historic monument (equivalent to being a listed building in the UK) the original facade will be maintained but a brand new roof will be added atop the five-storey oval stadium.
Having a camera to hand as we banked over the Maracanã may well have yielded a pic like this...
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Crap Football Songs
No 4: É Uma Partida de Futebol – Skank (1996)
To kick off the coming week’s theme (which is, by the way, footie in Brazil) and picking up were the highly successful series “Crap Football Songs” left off twenty months ago I present for your aural pleasure É Uma Partida de Futebol by Skank, one of the most popular bands in Brazil in the 1990’s.
The track is from one of three CD’s – by top Brazilian pop/rock artists - given to me by a budding Sao Paulo DJ and son of a former work colleague. Both kindly showed me around Sao Paolo and surrounds, and generally took excellent care of me, during two visits I made to the South America city in 1996.
With a sound that combined reggae, ska, rock & roll, funk, soul music, surf music, drum 'n' bass, bossa nova, and Latin pop, Skank released a total of nine albums between 1992 and 2006. The third of these was O Samba Poconé (on which É Uma Partida de Futebol appears) which sold over 1.8 million copies.
As I don’t speak a word of Portuguese I’ll make no attempt at an explanation of the song lyrics here but would wager that they’re a step up from those of Vindaloo.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
A few snaps of a wintery Portman Road...
a (mainly) pictorial account of one man's obsession with football stadia, floodlight pylon's and ipswich town football club
recent postsOn the move...
The Manchester City Experience
Olympic Stadium HDTV Ready
links:: Am I Supposed To Be At Home?
:: Black & White & Read All Over
:: Dub Steps
:: The 100 Grounds Club
:: Non-League Groundblogger
:: Each game as it comes
:: Pie and Mushy Peas
:: Local Bus Driver
:: Six Tame Sides
:: FA Vase diary
:: Pitch Invasion
:: Llandudno Jet Set
:: The Amazing One Man Brake Club
:: Bill the Navigator
:: Grounds for concern…
:: My Football Travels
:: European Football Weekends
Ground Visit RecordENGLAND
(Fitness First Stadium)
(Wicor Recreation Ground)
(King's Marsh Stadium)
(Alton (Bass) Sports Ground)
(Brantham Athletic Sports & Social Club)
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton & Hove Albion
(New Writtle Street)
(Chelmsford Sport & Athletics Centre)
(Saunders Honda Stadium)
Dagenham & Redbridge
Debenham Leisure Centre
(Brewers Green Lane)
(Rush Green Bowl)
Felixstowe & Walton United
Great Yarmouth Town
(Wellesley Recreation Ground)
Harwich & Parkeston
Havant & Waterlooville
(West Leigh Park)
(Glass World Stadium)
(Five Heads Park)
(SEH Sports Ground )
(The New Den)
(National Hockey Stadium)
Netley Central Sports
(Station Road Recreation Ground)
(St James' Park)
(Cricket Field Road)
Preston North End
Queens Park Rangers
Saffron Walden Town
(Raymond McEnhill Stadium)
Soham Town Rangers
(Julius Martin Lane)
St Albans City
(New Farm Road)
(Green Meadows Stadium)
(Stadium of Light)
(White Hart Lane)
United Services Portsmouth
(Vosper Thornycroft Sports Ground)
Walsham Le Willows
(Walsham Sports Club Ground)
West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
(King George V Playing Field )
(Denplan City Ground)
(St. Georges Lane)
Heart of Midlothian
(North Sydney Oval)
SW Wacker Innsbruck
(Constant Vanden Stock Stadium)
1. FC Koeln
1. FC Union Berlin
(Stadion An der Alten Försterei)
(Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam)
(GN Bouw Stadion)
(Abe Lenstra Stadium)
(Willem II Stadion)
(Gamla Ullevi (Old))
(Comiskey Park I)
Tampa Bay Rowdies
(Tampa Bay Stadium)