West Ham/Olympic Stadium
“The London Stadium (originally known as the Olympic Stadium) is a stadium in Stratford, Greater London, England, at Marshgate Lane in the Lower Lea Valley. It was constructed to serve as the home stadium for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, hosting the track and field events and opening and closing ceremonies. It was subsequently renovated as a multi-purpose stadium, with its primary tenants being West Ham United Football Club and British Athletics.” – Copied from Wikipedia
T’was a warm summer night way back in August. Myself and two brave adventurers were living the highlife in the capital; catching up, eating McDonald’s, making jokes. The original plan was to hit the Orbit tower but after scouting it out we saw workers and decided it was not a good time to try. I forget which one of us suggested it but we were soon walking the perimeter of the next-door stadium recently decked out in shiny colourful West Ham livery.
We scoped a few potential cracks in the armour of the large stadium before deciding on an entry point and we were soon watching a service entrance into the beast that is the Olympic stadium… All seemed quiet so silently we moved over to the access point and started our exploit. Climbing up vines that were releasing some toxic, respiratory impacting deterrent before long we were on the other side of the large alarmed gate, sheltering behind a board protecting us from the view of an all seeing 360 degree view dome camera. After a moment of psyching ourselves up and forming a quick plan of action, came the sprint past the volley of CCTV pointing in all directions looking to cut our venture short. After reaching the end of no-mans-land we were given our first glance of the monstrosity, all 60,000 seats of it basking in its floodlit glory…
We edged closer to the pitch, trepidation in each step with bated breath. Crouching at the black border to the pitch using it as cover we turned 180 and started our ascent to the top of the stand not sure at which moment the guard would start shouting over the speaker system and we would have to make our escape. Mid way up our ascent we had to take a breather; adrenaline coursing through your veins will only take you up so many steps before your legs and heart command you to stop. A soft rumbling could be heard in the distance, getting louder. The sound of a helicopter was fast approaching. ‘is it for us?’ ‘Were we seen getting in?’ ‘Has the guard foregone catching us and called in a terror threat?’ all these questions were racing through our heads. For myself the last question was putting vivid images in my mind of armed police swarming the stadium and a night in the cells. We sprinted up to the top level of the seats that had a canopy over the top of them before diving behind the backs of the chairs in some pitiful attempt at cover from the bird of prey hovering above.
The sound of the rotating blades drifted off into the night and we breathed a sigh of relief at the absence of armed police in full riot gear protecting their crown jewel of the Stratford landscape (At the time). We stayed up high in the stadium and followed the curvature of the seating. Feeling reasonably safe and unseen, we found ourselves climbing up a ladder to the roof of this 60,000 seat beast. Opening a hatch into the warm summers night air we were greeted by a steel walkway running the full circumference of the structure. Each step was met with an echoing metallic clang, so we were cautious as not to alert the watchmen patrolling in the stadium below. We snapped our pictures and set our sights on the high lighting gantry that runs around the inside roof.
We felt safe up here, not in direct view of any cameras or in the line of sight should the guards glance across the pitch. It was getting late and the decision was made to begin the exit process of our excursion, in my opinion there are 2 instances where you are more likely to be rumbled, the getting in, and the getting out.
Back at ground level we could not resist the pull of the pitch, we all figured that if we were to get caught now, we had seen most of the stadium anyway and photographed all we wanted to apart from the pitch so we were soon making small footprints on the manicured lawn toward the tunnel the players walk out from at the start of every game; strangely like gladiators to a bloody battle. Walking quite brazenly across the grass felt surreal. Getting the same view the Players and Athletes would have, minus the screaming fans, ridiculous salary and anxious managers. We paused at the VIP section and couldn’t resist having a seat In the fancy chairs, not as comfortable as you would think! Its all for show anyway.
After running around the pitch like Harry Potter chasing the golden snitch for a good 10 minutes we thought we had better quit while we were ahead and made our way back the way we came, this time strolling past the cameras as if we owned the place. Fast forward 15 minutes and we were back to laughing and joking having conquered one of the largest stadiums and most famous landmarks in London, without any prior planning, getting away scot free and utterly drunk on adrenaline.
And that was that. This was in my opinion my first ‘Big explore’ and opened me up to many more lucrative locations, I have since met some of the best people in the world, some of which I am confident we will have strong friendships for the rest of our lives. You know who you are.
Thanks for reading.
Until next time.