diamond geezer

 Friday, December 30, 2005

London 2005

You can tell the story of London's year in a single week. You know which one.

Saturday 2nd July: Live 8
Short term importance: ****   Long term importance: *****
20 years on, time for another Geldof-driven publicity bandwagon to engage in global hype on behalf of the world's poor, this time from a mega-stage in Hyde Park. I stood in Park Lane to watch the crowds queuing (and queueing) to gain admittance, no doubt waiting so long that they missed Sir Paul open the event and several subsequent acts too. I sat at home to watch the middle of the concert on TV, sickened by the gaping chasm so clearly visible behind the VIP enclosure and in front of the 'standard' audience. I stood drinking in a bar in Soho while Madonna strutted her stuff, one of the few highlights of an unexpectedly lacklustre line-up. And I fast forwarded through much of the remainder on video once I got home, pausing only to note how well Pink Floyd were reinventing themselves for a new generation. The event itself may have been somewhat underwhelming but its impact helped to encourage 8 old men to cancel the debts of 18 of the very poorest countries in the world a few days later, and that rocked.

Wednesday 6th July: Olympics 2012
Short term importance: **   Long term importance: ****
Thousands of us stood packed into Trafalgar Square on that damp grey lunchtime, all expecting the capital's protracted Olympic bid to end in a valiant but ultimately irrelevant second place. We waited patiently in front of the stage beneath Nelson's Column until, finally, IOC president Jacques Rogge attempted the world record for the slowest ever opening of an envelope. 200 miles apart, two capital cities stood in expectant silence. And then, as the wholly unexpected word 'London' dripped from his lips, the crowd around me erupted in jubilant celebration. People gasped, and cheered, and leapt, and hugged, and waved flags in the air, and generally grinned in elated disbelief as a shower of multi-coloured tickertape rained down from the sky. The five-ring circus was coming to town, and there was no better place in the world to be. Later that same afternoon I took a stroll around the riverside industrial estate which the 2012 Olympics will soon wipe from the map. The centre of the main stadium was much quieter than Trafalgar Square had been a few hours before, but in seven years' time the full glare of the world's media spotlight will shine down right here, just up from the Bow Flyover, in my manor. No doubt about it, East London will never be the same again.
Flickr photoset: London's Olympic Zone 2012

Thursday 7th July: Bombings
Short term importance: *****   Long term importance: ***
I travelled into work early on that fateful Thursday. My ticket was one of the million or so lucky ones. But for the unfortunate few, on the wrong bus or in the wrong place in the wrong carriage in the wrong train at the wrong time, this was to be the last journey they ever made. Hundreds more would be scarred for life by the experience, both physically and emotionally, and all because four misguided zealots had a posthumous political point to prove. Perhaps even scarier was the climate of fear that followed, complete with false-alarm copycat bombers and one single act of trigger-happy incompetence which instantly lost the Metropolitan Police all public support. But now, several months later, most Londoners are perfectly happy to travel again by tube without giving their potential dismemberment a second thought. I remain strangely comforted that, despite repeated warnings and the continued erosion of our civil liberties, no plot so abominable has played out in the capital since that bleak July morning. But let's hope that we Londoners don't have to play the lottery of death again, because we can't all be lucky all of the time.

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