diamond geezer

 Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The London Olympics? 2012

Olympic snapshots: Media Centre
I am, very nearly, an Olympic resident. A marathon runner could jog from my front door to the edge of the Olympic Zone in one minute flat (and, if all goes to plan come 2012, they'll be doing precisely that). The prospect of wholesale urban regeneration on my doorstep is therefore a very desirable thing, and would be even more desirable if I owned my flat rather than renting it. My corner of the Olympic Zone, between the Bow flyover and Pudding Mill Lane DLR station, has been designated as the Media Village and International Broadcast Centre. This means that we'll be descended upon by the global equivalents of Gary Lineker and Sue Barker, their task to link together the latest reports from the taekwondo, the weightlifting and the synchronised swimming. I look forward to sharing a bag of chips with everyone outside Mam's Fish Bar. Construction of the Media Village requires that a whole swathe of heavy industrial units are cleared away from the site first, although most of these appear to specialise in waste disposal so maybe they can dismantle themselves. I'd like in advance to thank you, the British taxpayer, for funding a project that my local councils could never ever afford by themselves. True community gold really could be unearthed at the end of this Olympic Zone rainbow. But I wonder how easy it would be to live with the biggest building site in the country at the bottom of my road for seven long years before any of the rewards can be felt.

Olympic snapshots: Back the Bid
Go back just a year and you'd have been hard-pushed to find many Londoners who supported the Olympic bid. It needed a massive (and carefully conceived) PR campaign to turn the population of this Candidate City in favour of the 2012 Olympics, and thankfully that's exactly what we've had. You can't fail to have noticed 'Back the Bid' flags hanging from London's lampposts, 'Back the Bid' banners draped across London's public buildings and 'Back the Bid' stickers plastered all over London's public transport. This photograph, taken at Bromley-by-Bow station, shows one of two tube trains that have been madeover in Olympic colours - even the seats have been covered by special yellow 'Back the Bid' upholstery. It's an awful lot of money to throw at a campaign for an event London probably won't win, and all this still only achieved a 68% satisfaction rate in the IOC's final survey of public opinion, but the expense might just be worth it when you consider the potential regenerative benefits to be had in London's poorest boroughs if the bid is successful. I just wonder how many months it will take to remove every last scrap of depressingly upbeat 2012 branding across the capital when Paris wins on Wednesday instead.

Olympic snapshots: 2012, no thanks
As you can see, not everybody wants the Olympics to come to London. You'd be hard pushed, for example, to persuade citizens of Shetland, Belfast and Birmingham that their hard-earned taxes should be spent laying asphalt and astroturf in my backyard. Many Londoners are equally strongly opposed to the huge debts they might end up paying off over the next seven years (and beyond). But the most vociferous protests have come from those living and working on the Olympic site itself, so it came as no surprise to stumble upon this delightful piece of graffiti sprayed on the underside of a litter-strewn bridge down Marshgate Lane. 308 local businesses would be forced to relocate within two years of a successful Olympic bid, and they're understandably aggrieved. Compensation has only been pledged based on existing land values, a token gesture insufficient to cover the cost of reconstruction on more expensive land elsewhere. A major legal challenge is threatened if London wins tomorrow. Most of the thousands of jobs which would be lost are in unglamorous but essential service industries such as waste disposal, recycling, demolition (and, erm, luxury salmon-smoking). Although several thousand new jobs would be created in construction, these wouldn't be especially appropriate jobs for ex fish filleters (neither would they continue beyond 2012 like the jobs to be found here today). At least a few local unskilled teenagers can look forward to employment selling programmes and flipping burgers for three weeks in the summer of 2012. Beyond the closing ceremony, however, who knows? Maybe some of the current skilled workforce would like to apply to become a parkkeeper or, rather more likely I fear, a security guard.

Take a stroll around the East London Olympic Zone.

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