From the Terraces - The Stadium's wow factor

West Ham United blogger Sean Whetstone returned to the former Olympic Stadium for the first time in three years on Friday and was wowed by the sight of the Hammers' new home...   
On Friday 27 July 2012, I attended the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic games with 80,000 others and was wowed by the Stadium and sheer spectacle of the night.

Last Friday I returned, in a rebuilt Stadium with a new roof and redesigned flood iconic lights. It was my first time back in the former Olympic Stadium for three years and I must say the wow factor is very much there. 

Walking up to the Stadium at dusk, it is a thing of beauty. It makes you feel proud to be a West Ham fan to know this venue will soon be our home for the next 99 years.

Friday night, under the new floodlights, was a night of celebration for the legacy of the Olympic Games, with the star attractions, Usain Bolt and Mo Farah.  However, I wasn’t there for  the athletics, I was there to check  out West Ham’s new ground and spent the evening walking around every section in the upper and lower stands dressed in my new Betway West Ham shirt to experience the views first hand for myself.

I  was instantly impressed with the overall experience, although I can see there is still some work to do to make it our home for 2016, including the concourse and the catering facilities, it is hard not to be dazzled with the work achieved so far. West Ham fans do need to be open minded when they watch the athletics on TV or see pictures published in the media or online.

The TV cameras and photographs cannot replicate the naked eye and there is no substitute to being there in person. You feel a lot closer to the action then TV cameras or photos suggest, even without the retractable seats pushed forward.

I would really recommend attending one of the rugby games either at the end of August when Barbarians take on Samoa, or the Rugby World Cup games from September onwards to get an even better perspective what it will be like when the Hammers move in.
It makes you feel proud to be a West Ham fan to know this venue will soon be our home for the next 99 years.
There are certain elements that Hammers fans need to remain understanding about. First and most importantly, the Stadium will never replicate the Boleyn Ground and it does not try to. 

It is a different kind of stadium with a different shape and different characteristics. Some fans won’t like that, but I think the majority will embrace change and come to love the new Stadium just like we do the Boleyn Ground.

The 2015 Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona was played in the Berlin former Olympic Stadium with a running track around it and no retractable seating. No-one mentioned lack of atmosphere or the gap between the pitch and the front row in that game. 

The new roof together with the redesigned floodlights created a magical atmosphere on Friday night with 40,000 athletics fans watching. Despite being quite a tame and polite crowd, the roof did its job by trapping in the crowd’s roar and improving the acoustics. I can only imagine what it would be like with 54,000 football fans.

You also need to be open minded about the lack of West Ham branding and colours currently, it was great to see claret and blue turnstiles already in place but a major branding exercise will take place with claret and blue lighting, West Ham inspired seating patterns and a new LED wrap around the outside all planned. These will make the Stadium much more like our home when completed.

I walked all the way around the back row of the upper stand, including some seats which will be screened off in football mode. I would certainly agree with David Gold’s recent comments that no seat will be worse that Wembley. In fact,  I would go one step further and say there isn’t the feeling of vertigo you get at Wembley in the upper stands. At a reduced Season Ticket price, I think the back sections of the upper tier will offer great value for money.