I've been writing about the Olympics coming to London ever since this blog began. It's ten years since a patch of semi-derelict industrial land west of Stratford was earmarked as the preferred site for London's Games bid. It's nine years since a space between the Bow Back Rivers was selected as the potential site for our Olympic Stadium. It's eight years since London made it onto the global shortlist and the IOC came to town. It's seven years since I stood in Trafalgar Square while Jacques Rogge opened the envelope whose contents changed the East End of London forever. It's six years since the eviction notices were served to clear dozens of homes and businesses from the Lower Lea Valley. It's five years since the blue security fence went up around the site and gates slammed shut. It's four years since the first skeleton of the Olympic Stadium arose from a freshly levelled building site. It's three years since a cafe opened in a box on the Greenway and visitors started trickling in to see what was happening. It's two years since most of the venues were structurally complete and the stadium's floodlights were first switched on. It's one year since a series of test events proved that London was already prepared for the Games. It has been a phenomenally long time coming.
And today's the day the East End's Olympics begin. All those years of preparation finally bear fruit, and the world tunes in to watch an extended fortnight of top class sport. They won't remember the recycling depot and Mercedes Service Centre that used to stand in the centre of the athletics track. They won't realise quite how many people have been involved in making this all work. They won't notice the adverts for corporate sponsors plastered all around the perimeter of the Park. They'll only see the competition, and the drama, and the world records, and the medal table, and the bemusing mysteries of the Opening Ceremony, and the diplomatic gaffes, and the drug cheats, and how fabulous/mediocre the British weather is. They won't see East London at all, apart from a few aerial shots of green riverside parkland dotted with extraordinary venues.
So yes, I know I've been blogging about the Olympics for what seems like forever, but for me it's by far the most important hyperlocal story. Yes, I know I've barely blogged about anything else for the last few weeks, but when something this astonishing happens on my doorstep why focus elsewhere? Yes I've got tickets, so I'm going to be blogging almost exclusively about the Games for the next fortnight. What's it like living nextdoor to security lockdown, how is London bearing up to the disruption, and what's the spectator experience like? I'll try to let you know.
And if you're hoping I might finally shut up about the Games once the last athletes have gone home, no such luck. We local residents still have to live with the aftermath, and that's a story with at least another ten years to tell. Will the Olympic Park become a tumbleweed white elephant, surrounded by unsaleable shoebox flats, visited by nobody? Or will we gain a rich legacy, blessed by incomparable sporting facilities, with a fresh inclusive community starting to grow? East London's Olympic story still has a long way yet to run, and tonight's Opening Ceremony is merely the end of the beginning.