Bad news for the East End as it’s confirmed the Olympic marathon route will ignore the streets of Whitechapel, Bethnal Green and Bow – instead of having a race which will end at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, organisers LOCOG have decided to have a course which loops through the City and Westminster, presumably to attract interest from international broadcasters.
We’re lucky in Greenwich to get the London Marathon through our streets each year – it’s a fantastic community event and I’m sure it would have been the same in 2012 for the East End. It’s an incredibly short-sighted decision by LOCOG which will impact on how people feel about the games for a long time – and it’s made me worried about what’s in store for Greenwich Park.
Because if LOCOG is going to disregard the feelings of the people who live right on the doorstep of the Olympic Stadium, can it really be trusted with Greenwich Park? The arrangements to scrutinise what’s happening in the park don’t feel particularly transparent – with only the usual suspects in the local amenity societies involved, and they’re not exactly open to any outside involvement, as I found to my cost when I tried to report on a meeting. Together with Greenwich Council’s apparent lack of interest in asking difficult questions of LOCOG – one councillor being accused of “playing to the gallery” when he tried to question what was happening – and my general Olympics-related optimism has all but evaporated.
The Olympics opposition group, NOGOE, hasn’t given up, and thankfully seems to have (mostly) given up the strident screeching that lost them a lot of sympathy in the run-up to the planning application. Their current newsletter raises some important questions on the issue of just how the park will be reinstated after the games, and on the weedkiller LOCOG reportedly planned to use.
While I’d like to see the park used as a venue, and hope it’s a success, I hope NOGOE keep up the pressure on LOCOG and Greenwich Council. Because if Seb Coe’s team is going to turn its back on the East End, then we certainly need to be watching them like hawks in Greenwich.