diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 13, 2005

the Bid

Anybody want an Olympic Stadium in their backyard?

Apparently not. Motorists passing Bow Bridge yesterday would have seen these two homemade banners strapped to the roadside, denouncing London's 2012 Olympic bid in no uncertain terms. What motorists wouldn't have seen however, unless they'd been crossing the Bow flyover in the cab of a particularly tall articulated lorry, was the unusual protest being staged a few feet below.

A flotilla of anti-bid boaters assembled on the River Lea at 1pm yesterday afternoon. The protestors chugged down the Bow Back Rivers alongside the proposed Olympic zone and then tied up their narrowboats three or four abreast close to the flyover. They were demonstrating as part of the NoLondon2012 campaign, an outspoken pressure group intent on whipping up public opposition to London's Olympic bid. Not that yesterday's floating protest was in any way a bad-natured affair. The campaigners may have tooted their boats' whistles for a few minutes, but otherwise they just stood around on their barges or wandered up and the towpath a bit. Other protestors arrived on foot, or by bike, and some kept busy by taking photographs of the assembled gathering. Most appeared to be committed environmentalists rather than frustrated taxpayers - I saw rather more hand-knitted jumpers than I would normally expect to see along the banks of the Lea. It was certainly a colourful affair but, out of sight beneath the roadway, the participants appeared to be preaching only to the coverted.

There were muted jeers as a blue 'Back the Bid' double decker passed the site of the demonstration. Protestors will be hoping to make themselves heard more loudly when International Olympic Committee inspectors roll into town this week for their four day scrutiny visit. A much bigger demo is planned in Meridian Square in Stratford next Saturday, and one of those Critical Mass civilly-disobedient bike rides is scheduled to head this way on Friday evening. Expect to hear well-rehearsed arguments that money frittered away on the Olympics could be better spent on local hospitals and education, that a unique wetland habitat is under threat and that the promised influx of jobs, tourism and sporting facilities will do nothing to help local people. Speaking as an extremely local person myself, I must say I disagree.

After a sunny start to yesterday's demonstration, the heavens suddenly opened and sleet hurled down from grey clouds. Most of the protestors scuttled inside their narrowboats and waited for the wintry squall to pass. While they weren't looking a perfect rainbow appeared in the sky, spearing the ground precisely where the proposed Olympic Stadium would be built. I reckon this was a sign from above. There's a buried golden future here, but only when this grim industrial wasteland is earmarked for total regeneration will the financial rewards ever surface for the benefit of the local population. Don't get me wrong, I do love walking the deserted footpaths alongside my local rivers, but decades of urban neglect have scarred the environment here to the point where wholesale Olympic renewal can only be a good thing. A few riverbanks may be sanitised and a few moorhens left homeless, but what this area needs is progress, and lots of it.

After the sun came out, the protest resumed. I left quickly, before anyone thought I was one of 'them', and walked the short distance back to reality.

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