It is way out east, not in a fashionable hipster corner, but in the Lea Valley hinterland. Accessed via a shopping centre and a long, dreary walk from Stratford station, it is nowhere near the glittering, 80,000-capacity stadium that is the pride of the area.
Instead, it sits on an eerie expanse of flat concrete, partially covered in AstroTurf, not luscious green grass. "Olympic Park?" railed critics after this weekend's Hard Rock Calling festival. "Olympic Car Park, more like."
After going to last summer's glorious sporting celebrations in Stratford, it's fair to say that my first impressions of the Olympic Park reborn weren't particularly soul-stirring either. I attended the second day of the Hard Rock Calling festival, to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, on a patch where the basketball arena used to be. The walk in was long, and the walk out was even longer; even if we were born to run, we were forced, annoyingly, to trudge our ways in and out.
But – here's the rub – I had a fantastic time. This was an experience helped in part by the glorious weather, and the shock of hearing the Born in the USA album performed, in order, under scorching blue skies. But the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park experience also offered other, better boons.
First of all, the music was pleasingly loud, an advantage of the site – for the moment at least – being in the middle of nowhere, or as near as you can get to the middle of nowhere in London. Last year, Hard Rock Calling was in the much more central location of Hyde Park, where the sound was damped, and justifiably criticised; I was there, too. Listening to the Boss from halfway back in that crowd was like hearing great rock'n'roll through a tiny iPod earbud. At the Olympic Park, the sound is appropriately athletic.
Not being in a green, grassy idyll also offers advantages. There are few dips in the ground, making sightlines to the main stage excellent from all angles (although the live screens at the sides were uselessly tiny). There's little chance of mud, too, which will please the organisers of Wireless, who come here in a few weeks (last year, their Hyde Park weekend was a boggy disaster, and conditions caused the cancellation of another show a few days later). What's more – least rock'n'roll review comment ever forthcoming – AstroTurf is quite easy on the arse, as I discovered having a post-Black Crowes loaf.
The queues for toilets were fine, too, and it didn't take long to get a drink; I even loved the Mad Max vibes coming off the Olympic Village flats to the right of the main stage, an oddly fitting backdrop for Springsteen's sad, urban narratives. How Mumford & Sons will fare in this setting this weekend coming, however, is hard to say. Also, if the rain returns, there are few places to shelter. A soggy day on concrete watching four men in waistcoats with banjos? Even for their fans, it won't be the same as Glastonbury.
Crucially, however, future gigs will not happen right here – although some part of the Olympic Park is intended to be a fixture on London's gig circuit. Instead, a new E20 neighbourhood, Chobham Manor, will occupy this spot, and will include two nursery schools, community centres and restaurants. In the future, therefore, the walk to hear live music might be shorter, but sound might once again be a perilous problem. For this summer, however, the music is allowed to be Olympian.
• What was your experience of the Olympic Park? Better or worse than Hyde Park and the stadiums? Let us know
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