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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What's on this weekend? Spring Into Summer Saturday 30 & Sunday 31 May
40 free guided London walks. Purley Festival Friday 29 - Sunday 5 June
Bunting week, below Croydon. E17 Art Trail Sat 30th May - Sun 14th June
250 arty Walthamstow things.