It doesn’t bode well. A clearly disturbed young man is carrying old orange Sainburys bags and deliberately barges into an elderly gent as he crosses the road outside Stratford station. The first edition of The Standard yaps: “Flasher judge shows court his briefs!” and the pensioner wobbles but stays upright. I help him to gather his balance and thoughts.
I am in Olympic pastures, the land of hope and sport, of pomp and circumstance. In five year’s time, thousands of destructive carbon footprints will tramp across the landscaped dreams of Lord Sebastian Coe and the Rt. Hon Tessa Jowell MP – the High Priest and Priestess of the XXX London Olympiad. Today, the IOC have arrived in town for three days of hard hats and canapés.
Just before the roads across the land to the north and West of Stratford are blocked in the name of regeneration and Compulsory Purchase Order, I toured the lush solitude of the Lower Lea Valley towpaths, the sump-oil stained wrecks of Marshgate and Carpenters Road and the Clays Lane Travellers’ site. Vertigo-defying crews were re-routing pylons, council Green Machines (“High-technology Sweeping”) inched their way along dusty gutters and surveyors’ aerosol sprayings marked latitude and longitude positions for new boundaries. Tied to whichever lamp post hadn’t been impacted to 45 degrees by boy-racers (rather than a bulldozer) were the A4 sheets issued by the Olympic Delivery Authority, Lord Coe’s committee’s right-hand bicep. Their remit is to enforce the removal of residents and traders of Newham whose presence no longer fits into the 500-acre concept of New Olympism. More chavs than champs.
These notices speak of “bulk earthworks .. (including demolition), the felling of trees and clearance of vegetation and the remediation of land.” Dodging rattling dump-trucks, I peddled across the area to see the mish-mash archaeology of industrial estates in the weeks or months before it all vanishes for good. In its place will be a topography where (according to the image gallery) healthy avatar people jog everywhere in a Second Life Utopia. The corporate PDF makes it all seem believable but I also want to superimpose onto this acetate layer the kind of humanity I have seen today: One man helping to inject a liquid substance into another’s forearm on Greenway; a furtive south-Asian couple sampling each other’s tongues off the Leyton Road; desolate-looking east-Europeans dangling their legs over a wall at Three-Mills.
When the £3.9bn has been spent, the IOC have their idyll, Newham Council have been handed a legacy of the urban revamp but it is to hope that only übermensch visit the still disadvantaged area. In the perfect Olympic brochure of 2022, there is no graffiti, no petty criminals, no more money and no security. Olympic-land may return to the wasteland it is today.
Filed under: England, Landscape, London, Photographer, Photography | 6 Comments
Tags: 2012, Olympics