diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Dear East End,

London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) yesterday confirmed that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Marathons will start and finish in The Mall in central London.
Yeah, Seb, thanks for nothing. Your revised marathon route has been so well leaked that this confirmation comes as no surprise. But it's still a kick in the teeth for Tower Hamlets, having made so much fuss previously about how we'd all be able to participate and then whipping our special treat away.
The new route has been approved by the IAAF and the Olympic Board, and agreed by the IOC. The development of the Olympic Transport Plan, and evolving sports competition schedule, has led to the route change.
So let's get this clear. The changed route is for purely operational reasons. Not because we're ugly over this side of London, but because it would get in the way of everything else you have to organise. Well, organise it better, then.
The new route provides a better operational solution without causing a high risk of disruption to the many other sports taking place at the same time in the Olympic Park and across London.
Sheesh, we've gone for the "operational solution", have we? You'll be claiming next that this this "optimises stakeholder potential efficiency" and "minimises maximal reputational damage". This is a risk-register-driven realignment, because nobody dares try something which might possibly fail, under a worst-case scenario, in front of the world's media. And sorry, but how does a marathon ending up in the Olympic Park 'disrupt' the other sports taking place there? Everything else has its own arena, surely? Events in the Olympic Stadium would have to pause to give a big cheer to the arriving athletes, but that's happened in every previous Olympic Games and the world hasn't ended. The runners would appreciate a big cheer, I bet, and they won't get that same roar on the Mall.
A Marathon route east/north east of Tower Hill, ending in the Olympic Stadium, would have required the closure of Tower Bridge and a number of important artery roads.
Stop me if I'm wrong, but Tower Bridge closes regularly anyway. It's the 'important artery roads' you're more worried about. Let's be very clear about this - the road from Aldgate to Bow isn't an important Olympic artery road. It's only part of the Alternative Olympic Route Network, to be used as a last resort in times of transportational crisis. The official Olympic Route Network runs down the A12 towards the Blackwall Tunnel (for North Greenwich) then into town along the Commercial Road. A brief overlap would occur on Stratford High Street, but send the runners over the Bow Flyover and there'd be plenty of room on the dual carriageway for everybody.
In addition, the infrastructure and secure areas behind the Olympic Stadium mean that it would have been impossible for spectators to watch and celebrate the final mile of the Marathon.
Bollocks. A significant part of the final mile of the marathon would have been inside the Stadium, where spectators could have helped provide the big finish the event deserves. The Greenway and the main spectator concourse could surely have been used to guide runners into the Park, and they'll be public enough on the day. And if you've been stupid enough to design a stadium without an appropriate entry route for the marathon, then you must have known about this fatal flaw years ago, so why didn't you scrap the original route then?
The Olympic and Paralympic Marathons are much smaller events than the annual London Marathon, and other mass participation marathons. The races involve around 80 athletes.
The normal London Marathon shuts 26 miles of roads for hours, and the city copes. The Newham 10K run fills local streets with 3000 straggly runners, and Newham copes. So how can a mere 80 athletes, all running at a similar pace, cause the mass paralysis that LOCOG claim?
The route has been developed around a ‘loop’ circuit so that spectators can see the runners several times rather than them just passing the spectators once.
No, the route has been developed so that it closes as few roads as possible (and mostly those that are quiet at weekends). The new marathon's a circuit race with three and a bit loops, so that only ten miles of London's streets need to be blocked off [map]. And OK, you might get to see the runners three, four, even six times, but you'll have to find some roadside space first. Judging by how crowded the Embankment gets on New Years Eve (and that's with people standing in the roadway), I wouldn't rate everyone's chances.
The new route will start in The Mall, and take in London sights including Buckingham Palace, Admiralty Arch, Birdcage Walk, St Paul’s Cathedral, Leadenhall, Tower Hill and the Houses of Parliament before finishing in The Mall.
Apart from Leadenhall, all of those landmarks were already part of the original marathon route announced in 2004. The new route also covers relatively tedious thoroughfares such as Queen Victoria Street, Cannon Street and Eastcheap, so it's not thrills all the way. And it now takes some astonishing deviations through the backstreets of the City, including such narrow backways as Ave Maria Lane, Lime Street, even Little Britain, which won't exactly be spectator friendly. If all London comes out to watch this marathon, all London won't fit. Without an East London spur, the suitable viewing length's now 25% shorter.
The original starting point of Tower Bridge was ruled out since it did not have sufficient space needed for operational facilities and broadcasting positions.
And nobody realised this back in 2005? Nor indeed in any year since? Come on, one duff starting position may force a revised race solution, but it doesn't force this particular new route.
The dates of the Olympic Marathons (Men’s and Women’s) and Paralympic Marathon will be confirmed when the sports competition schedule is published – all three races will take place on days when many other medal events are taking place in the Olympic Park and elsewhere in London. Therefore the Marathon route has to be compatible with keeping London moving at a time when the city will be very busy with many other Games events.
The Marathon route completely buggers up the Embankment, which is a lynchpin of the main Olympic Route Network. Presumably this doesn't matter. Most other Olympic events will be taking place in North Greenwich, which is completely reachable from Stratford without 80 runners getting in the way. And if there are other events at Wembley Arena or Lord's or wherever, quite frankly there are other ways to get there which might even involve leaving half an hour early.
Sebastian Coe, Chair of LOCOG, commented: ‘This is one of the hardest decisions we have had to take – and we realise that this may be disappointing for Tower Hamlets.’
Tower Hamlets is one of the five Olympic boroughs. It was promised the basketball, which got moved into Newham to save money. It was promised the walking races, which got moved into Central London on the quiet. And it was promised the marathon, which has just been whipped away for mostly operational reasons. Tower Hamlets is now an Olympic borough with nothing, apart from a big building site nextdoor and several traffic jams.
‘We have agreed with the Leader of Tower Hamlets Council to develop a proposal creating other opportunities for the borough to be part of the Games.’
Right. No actual Olympic sports, but some 'opportunities'. One of those will apparently be the Torch Relay, which was last here in Tower Hamlets two years ago. In that particular LOCOG-organised fiasco, the flame whizzed through the borough unseen in the back of a bus, much to the disappointment of all those assembled to see it. Sorry Seb, your promise of 'opportunities' rings a bit hollow.
‘The vast majority of the sporting action will take place in the Olympic Park in the heart of east London, and the brand new sporting facilities and new housing we leave behind after the Games will be transformational for east London.’
Well, there you go. If we want to see some action we can always buy tickets, just like people in Croydon and Warsaw can. And there'll be a new swimming pool, in Newham, and some new cycling facilities, in Newham, and some new homes, in Newham. Yes, we know East London will do bloody well out of the Games. We just wanted our corner to be a little part of it.
‘Our prime objective as the Organising Committee has to be to deliver venues and events that work for the athletes, spectators, and for the host city – venues that provide the best possible way of keeping the city moving, minimising disruption for everyone and, critically, getting the athletes and spectators to the venues on time. We are confident that the new route is the best way to do this.’
No previous Olympic City has had the supreme locational bonus of an Athletes Village immediately alongside the majority of its sporting arenas. And yet no previous Olympic City has had to divert its marathon away from the Stadium merely because it might screw up the traffic. Not just for the athletes, either. Look, Seb specifically mentions spectators too, i.e. the officials and sponsors who need to be driven around everywhere. So much for this being a 'green' games powered by public transport, because it's limousines and coach convoys that have scuppered Tower Hamlets' marathon dreams.

Yes, Seb, we know you're not going to change your mind. Yes, we know the new route is final and we've missed out. Yes, we're sure that Leadenhall Market will look better on the world's TV screens than Whitechapel Market. But what you did here was to promise us something unique and global, and then steal it away. What you did here was to prioritise unrestricted traffic flow at the expense of East End spectators. What you did here, through lack of joined-up thinking, was to generate a major PR own goal. You'll have to hope that Tower Hamlets either forgives or forgets.
With love from LOCOG
(a bunch of brand-obsessed fuckwits who don't give a toss about local communities)


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