diamond geezer

 Thursday, February 17, 2011

I am not going to write about the Olympics two days running.

"Tower Hamlets council has dropped legal proceedings against Olympic organisers over the marathon route, claiming to have won concessions."

Damn, yes I am.

Back in November, you may remember, my local council threw a strop over the re-routeing of the Olympic Marathon. New Mayor Lutfur Rahman said he believed LOCOG had acted unlawfully in failing to adhere to the spirit of the original bid, and that a Judicial Review was the only option. He had a point. The borough was due to be hosting the Basketball, until that arena got shifted to save money. Most of the Race Walk was due to snake around Victoria Park, until that got moved to central London instead. And then the marathon route got amputated, severing the run up the Mile End Road in favour of another run down The Mall. From three Olympic events to zero, that is indeed a kick in the East End teeth.
Now that the Olympic schedule has been released, we can see if Seb had a point. Would the marathon have conflicted with several other events and caused a serious traffic snarl-up? Well, yes and no.

The women's marathon is scheduled for 1100-1400 on Sunday 5th August. At the same time there's hockey, basketball, cycling, handball and water polo going on in the Olympic Park. There is absolutely nothing going on in the Olympic Stadium, not until the 100m semi-finals kick off five hours later, so no overlap there. Meanwhile there are lots of Sunday lunchtime events elsewhere in London - in North Greenwich, Greenwich Park, Woolwich, Wimbledon, Earls Court and Wembley - which athletes and spectators need to travel to. I'm by no means convinced that 80 runners on the Bow Flyover create insurmountable congestion problems, but apparently they do, and I'm not the expert.

The men's marathon is scheduled for 1100-1340 on Sunday 12th August. This is the last day of the Olympics, and the number of events going on is minimal. There's some water polo in the Park, plus there's the modern pentathlon which spends a bit of time in the Park, but the Park is essentially empty. Had the men's marathon run out to the Stadium as originally planned, sorry Seb, your claims of Olympic-related traffic chaos just don't hold up. Instead the marathon runners would have arrived at a spectator-free arena in the middle of preparations for the Closing Ceremony, six hours later, and I guess that doesn't make for good TV.
Lutfur's legal challenge wasn't necessarily to get the marathon route reinstated, because we're well past the stage where that's a practical possibility. Instead he hoped to get concessions from LOCOG to bring more Olympic 'stuff' to Tower Hamlets. And in this he claims to have succeeded, because he sat down in Bow with Seb yesterday and smiled and signed something official-looking. Let's see what marvellous perks he's won for us.

Plans around maximising employment opportunities for Tower Hamlets residents will be implemented immediately with the secondment of a full time council employee to the LOCOG HR team. They will work together to identify up to 1,000 vacancies that Tower Hamlets' residents will be given access to 72 hours before they enter the wider employment market.
Woo. One council employee is going to Canary Wharf, lucky them. They'll identify "up to 1000 vacancies" - a range which could mean 999 jobs or could mean 2. These jobs could be managerial or they could be cleaners, we don't know. And then unemployed residents signed up on some council list somewhere will get 3 days longer to submit their CVs than everyone else. Sorry, but that doesn't sound like much of a jobs boost to me.

There will also be joint working to ensure that the many opportunities for children and young people in Tower Hamlets schools, from being involved in test events and ceremonies rehearsals, to accessing tickets for the Games through the Ticketshare scheme by all schools in the borough being part of the London 2012 education programme 'Get Set'.
I've read that several times, and I think there's a clause missing at the end. What precisely is being ensured? I don't think it says. It's obviously brilliant for local schoolchildren that they'll get to go to test events and ceremony rehearsals - that could be the best field trip ever. But 'Get Set' is an existing programme which schools can enter anyway. There may be 50000 free Olympic tickets on offer to schools and colleges in London, but Tower Hamlets' 25000 pupils won't be getting preferential treatment.

LOCOG has also confirmed plans to work with Tower Hamlets to develop a special event to mark the London arrival of the Olympic Torch Relay.
Aren't we the lucky ones? When the Olympic Torch finally arrives in London, sometime after May 18th, it'll arrive in Tower Hamlets. That could mean arriving by speedboat at the Tower of London. It could mean dropping in by parachute at Canary Wharf. It could just mean a big event hosted by Fearne Cotton in Victoria Park. All I will say is that the Beijing Olympic Torch arrived in Tower Hamlets three years ago, and the event locally was a crushing disappointment. Please do better in 2012, because 2008 was abysmal.

Brick Lane and Banglatown will be promoted as cultural and entertainment hub for media, spectators and other visitors to the Games, helping to boost business and the reputation of the area.
Good idea. Brick Lane's an ideal spot for Olympic tourists to dine out after a tough afternoon's spectating. Although are you trying to tell me, Seb, that you wouldn't have promoted the area unless our Mayor had complained? Is this really a special PR boost, or is Banglatown simply going to be one of many destinations in an Olympic tourist brochure?

So there you go. Four concessions to Tower Hamlets, only one-and-a-bit of which could be described as generous. They even have a whiff of favouritism about them, in both social and economic terms, compared all to the other Olympic boroughs nextdoor. Whoever brokered this deal ought to be pleased, because both sides appear to have emerged from a bitter argument without losing face. But as a Tower Hamlets resident I'm not impressed. I'd much rather have had the marathon running past my door as promised, and these few lesser scraps won't ease my disappointment.

I am not going to write about the Olympics three days running, honest.


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