Olympic test events: The great steel maze of Greenwich Park

Even if, like me, you’re generally supportive of the Olympics in Greenwich Park, seeing great chunks of it fenced off is still a profound shock. There’s memories in those trees, you know (especially that one over there), but now they’re behind big steel fences until 11 July. What was a beautiful open space is now criss-crossed with steel, laminated signs replacing painted-out fingerposts, routes through the park shut off.

Wandering around last night, I was struck by the number of dogs peering through the fence, missing the fields they’d normally run through. I wasn’t the only person taking photos either – the preparations becoming more of a tourist attraction than those sorry-looking Roman remains that are currently out of bounds.

At least it’s easy to see what it’s all for. White posts are marking out the route for the Greenwich Park Eventing International. The June rain has replenished the soil, but it’s still possible to see the work that’s been put in to make sure the grass is in tip-top condition. I’ve seen people in there jogging around the course.

The jumps are in place, too, while at the bottom of the hill work is progressing well on the temporary stadium and the horse boxes are awaiting their occupants. The park is starting to look like a sporting arena. Next summer’s TV viewers will be in for a treat.

But there’s going to be mistakes along the way. The unnecessary closure of one exit to the flower gardens was thankfully reversed as soon as greenwich.co.uk pointed it out. But did LOCOG really mean to fence off the view from the Wolfe memorial? I hope not. That fence wasn’t there on Wednesday night, but by Thursday it was making the place look like a building site.

Which is it is, but in the park, you like to pretend otherwise.

For next summer, Royal Parks need to put decent signs up at all entrances to the park explaining what’s happening – not just the bits used by tourists. While there’s got to be a more elegant way to direct people around than nasty laminated “TO THE OBSERVATORY” signs, hasn’t there?

Nobody with any sense ever pretended the road to a successful Olympics in Greenwich Park would be smooth. But nobody of sound mind predicts disaster, either. In a way, we’re getting an early rehearsal of the upheaval that’ll hit London next summer. This map outlines the next steps.

I’m looking forward to one closure – the banning of through traffic between 1-11 July, which will make the park a lot safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Perhaps a traffic-free park could be a legacy to demand.

But if you see something that baffles you – shout. It’s in everyone’s interests that this thing works – and that’s going to need honesty and patience on both sides.

(For what’s behind the fences, head here.)


  1. Gonna hit 30 degrees on Sunday so we’ll all need to get out and enjoy it. But where I wonder?
    Well all round to your place I guess and you can tell us just how “impressed” you are with the tacky stadium and stupid Fred Flintstone jumps and how it’s all going to absolutely fabulous and what a treat we’re all in for when it knocks us out again next year.
    Please 853 use your time and skills and tell Locog to push off to the country and put on their £45m Equestrian Events successfully and with a worthwhile legacy of world class facilities.

    Having a temporary event of such a scale here is a joke and so irresponsible of us all to have given Coe the keys to do as he pleases.

  2. Totally agree with parkkeeper except for the bit where he says so irresponsible of us all to give Coe the keys to do as he pleases – I fucking didn’t.

  3. I think you’re a bit late Parkkeeper. Even 853 isn’t going to stop the Olympics coming to Greenwich Park. Maybe just time to calm down and accept it now.

  4. Darryl wrote, “The unnecessary closure of one exit to the flower gardens was thankfully reversed as soon as greenwich.co.uk pointed it out.”

    Er, no, NOGOE pointed it out – sent furious e-mails to LOCOG and local councillors, took a series of photographs, etc. As you would know, if you followed our Twitter feed.

  5. If you dared criticise the choice of Greenwich Park as 2012 equestrian venue, Darryl, what’s the worst that could happen? Being crossed off LOCOG’s press briefing invitation list, isn’t it, for you?

  6. It’s only NOGOE that can save us!

    Well done to Rob at Greenwich.co.uk for getting it sorted, and well done to LOCOG for reacting quickly and sorting it when it was pointed out.

    From a little visit to the Park on Friday, it looks great, going to be great for those who go to the invitational, and to the Olympics, and then come October 2012, no one will even notice it was there.

  7. Hello Sue
    If you’re hacked off – time to tell land grabber Coe to hand them back pronto and to get out of town to a more suitable location!
    Stuff this idea of the ‘compact London’ games – ‘chaos London’ more likely.
    We’re a compact country with easily accessed locations from every direction and
    should be thinking ‘big’ about hosting this world event. Badminton has 250,000 fans on UK cross country days such is the popularity of the sport. With the games on the doorstep of the horse crazy Irish, Scots, Welsh, French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, Scandinavians et al we should be putting on a great show welcoming them to visit and enjoy.

    Hello Steve
    Never too late to dump a crap idea along with the buffoons who conceived it.
    Appoint some pragmatic realists immediately and bin this pathetic half arsed idea now!
    We need bigger brains on this chance of a lifetime opportunity not the tiny ones currently screwing it.

  8. Come on then, who managed to get tickets? The horsey stuff was one of the most over subscribed events at the Games, I doubt many residents managed to secure tickets.

    The Games are such a joke. Whats the cost now? 10 billion quid to watch minority sports like rowing, yachting, track cycling, archery. Sports for atheletes who are not good enough for proper mass participation sports. Wayne Rooney has more skill in his left finger than Steve Redgrave has in his entire body.

  9. Miow miow…not in my back yard…miow miow…chaos…miow miow…joke…miow miow…furious…

    I’m actually glad we’re hosting a world class event rather than selfishly thinking about poor me..

  10. I’m sick of hearing (eg from LOCOG) that the park will be a ‘wonderful venue’, ‘views to die for for competitors and viewers alike’…. What about the mess, closures, detours and so on that current visitors (tourists and residents alike) face for weeks? – and this is only 2011. It’s simply not worth all this upheaval.

  11. A very constructive piece highlighting the patience needed for this major event. There will be disruption but I believe it is being managed well by LOCOG. There will be problems but we have a shared responsibility to work through those issues with residents

  12. No problem with sockpuppets or glove puppets Sacha
    The time has come for you to start worrying big time about the puppets on strings operated from Zurich!
    Main players are to be found in SW1 and Churchill Towers across the water.
    Walk on part players are frequently seen blundering about in Wellington Street, Woolwich.

  13. Matt: “I’m actually glad we’re hosting a world class event rather than selfishly thinking about poor me.”

    I agree. It isn’t that much disruption, I can survive without the park for a few weeks. Worse things have happened. I am more concerned with making sure Southeastern provide a good train service during the games. Maybe people could funnel their energy into complaining to Southeastern about their proposed Olympic service. A more constructive use of our time perhaps, we aren’t going to change anything in the park now.

  14. Just in case I missed it, when was the election at which NOGOE became the official defenders of the park? When did it become official that only those who hated the Olympics being held there, truly loved the park? When was it deemed impossible to love the park and want to see it shown off to the world? Who gave NOGOE the right to try and speak for all users of the park, as if there had been a meeting and this policy had been unanimously adopted?

    With every new, peevish outburst, they take NIMBYism to a new depth. I first went to Greenwich Park in my pram, and I last went on Friday, which makes my experience of the place a little over 40 years. I think of it as ‘my’ park, holding ‘my’ memories and many of ‘my’ experiences – just as every other individual does. That’s the beauty of great parks – they’re both public and private.

    I’m thrilled and delighted that ‘my’ park is going to be shown off to the whole world – that the entire globe will get to have a glimpse of somewhere I’ve always found so special.

    NOGOE claim to speak for more people than they do, with an authority they don’t hold. If they’re so worried about the locals being denied green spaces, why don’t those of them who live in Gloucester Circus open up their private gardens to local children for the duration? I put that to several of their members very early on, and was told it would be ‘considered’. No decision yet, it seems.

    The park is hundreds of years old. In a century from now, that it held an Olympics will be just one, further, glittering aspect of its CV. NOGOE would prefer “Offered chance to host part of 2012 Olympic Games, but refused, after protests from locals who didn’t want a summer’s disruption.” Such a myopic view of the world would put a scar on the park’s history far greater than any brief damage to the grass a few hooves might cause.

    If people object to the Olympics, then that’s their right and even while disagreeing, I understand that. Just be brave enough to admit that’s the problem though – that you don’t like the Olympics – rather than claiming your actions are motivated by a love of the park. In large part, Greenwich Park was “created” when someone built a huge wall, in order to ride horses around it. See the irony? Thought not.

  15. Mick – my hero. Well said that man.

    I’m afraid the near rabid outburst from Indigo and NOGOE are not falling on deaf ears so much but rather on disinterested ears as they have failed to put forward a convincing argument for NOT hosting the Greenwich Park events. Beetles and acid grassland didn’t seem to appear on anyones agenda before the event was mooted and I rather think that most of those up in arms on these type of issues honestly didn’t give a toss beforehand.

    As an alternative place to take in the air and get away from it all why don’t the NOEGOE’rs visit the under used and wonderfully peaceful Pleasuance every now and then. Oh, thats right, we’re in overlooked and undervalued East Greenwich – the area with a hole for a heart. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need a passport or vaccinations to travel from West to East Greenwich just some sturdy walking boots and bottle of water for the 1 mile sojourn.

    Take some pride in Greenwich you nay sayers. You lot will have a sparkly new ship, foot tunnel, Cutty Sark gardens and pier as well as a new college to add to your collection. Like it or not you will also get a new market and boutique hotel whilst we in east Greenwich can’t even get a lick of paint for our library windows or, unlike yourselves, weekly (let alone daily!) litter picking.

    Smile, we’re all in this together – as I’ve heard someone mention recently.

  16. I’m with Mick on this. I’m not wildly impressed with LOCOG’s general approach, and clearly there’s going to be some disruption, but some people seem to be confusing the Park with their own front garden. It would be nice if the same horror and outrage could be mustered for some of the longer terms issues facing the Borough: the rubbish quality of new buildings around the place; the dreadful air quality; the traffic; and so on.

  17. Oh, I so heartily endorse all that Mick Collins and Paul have said! I have lived close to Greenwich Park for over forty years and love it with a passion, but I am astonished at how possessive people can be when it comes to “sharing their toys” with the world for a few weeks in a lifetime. Any scars from the Equestrian events in Greenwich Park will have healed in a few months, but the positive legacy will live on in thousands of minds for decades.

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