Blackheath or Greenwich – how was your Olympics big screen?

It seemed like a good idea to watch the Olympic opening ceremony up at Blackheath’s big screen. In fact, it was a good idea, since I knew a good few people up there. With the Olympic cycle park on Talbot Place not yet in operation, benches and Lewisham Council street signs were taking their place as I found I wasn’t the only one to have to hunt around for a space to leave the bike.

What a turnout there was. I reckon at least 4,000 people were up there to see the festivities – it was packed. And there was my problem – I had no chance of finding anyone in that crowd. But this is going to be a lovely spot for watching sport in over the next fortnight. There are some downsides – decent beer costs £4.50/pint, but screens have to be paid for somehow, I guess, and the sound isn’t particularly loud. I left as there were cries of “turn it up!” from the back. I’ll definitely return when it’s quieter – although I might bring my own beer along…

So, off on the bike I went. I couldn’t hear a dicky bird from the big screen at the Royal Naval College as I passed through the Olympic checkpoint at Park Row – surprising as it’s become a regular place for live music – so I took a sharp right and ended up on the peninsula.

The Peninsula Festival still hadn’t opened its gates when I passed by just before 7pm, but it’d attracted about 250 people by 9.45pm. There was a decent atmosphere – a bit like a big pub beer garden. But there wasn’t much else to do – and getting inside involved negotiating huge empty lanes with “Royal Borough of Greenwich” banners, and the needless hassle of being frisked and scanned. Cans of Stella at £4.50 each and cash machines charging £2/withdrawal didn’t seem to be having many takers, although I’m told its hog roast is rather good.

Now it’s finally staggered to life, can the Peninsula Festival flourish? Suspending my scepticism for a moment, it could be a decent spot with enough to do there – but the poor and highly-priced bar’s a major deterrent. The area around the Dome was phenomenally busy on Saturday as the artistic gymnastics swung into life, but there was nobody promoting it up there. Passing the site at 6.30pm on Saturday it looked very quiet – although sheeting’s been put up to prevent viewing from outside – and an 853 reader reports it closed early. Greenwich’s oddest soap opera continues – but it’s worth a visit if you’re nearbu.

I also popped up to Greenwich Yacht Club – no big screen, but lots of tellies, a barbecue, and all open to the public during the Games. It’s a lovely venue and the only one with a view of the Olympic Stadium – but my half-arsed idea of staying for the fireworks were dashed by the realisation we were only at “B” in the athletes’ parade. Oh, and a pint of Guinness cost – you guessed it, £4.50. Maybe that’s the price us non-members pay for access to the club and a fantastic view of and across the Thames.

So I buggered off to the pub instead, where I still couldn’t get away from council sponsorship, as a woman frantically waved a “Royal Borough of Greenwich” flag she’d been given at the naval college. But if you watched the opening ceremony at one of the big screens in this area, or have been watching any Olympics action, how has it been for you?

PS. There was a Deptford connection with the opening ceremony’s boy/girl story…


  1. We watched it at the ORNC with some friends, we couldn’t actually get into the festival enclosure as security said it was at full capacity and they were concerned about crowd control, which was a massive shame as there seemed to be a fair bit of space and we were looking forward to eating at the food stalls (although I must admit some of our party ‘breached’ security and managed to smuggle food out later in the evening…). We sat ourselves on the grass some way away. The atmosphere was fantastic, spoke to lots of friendly people and the crowd chanting of ‘sit down’ whenever anyone got up to spoil the view was very enjoyable. Everyone stood for the Queen, the National Anthem and Team GB. The sound was awful though and the screen itself could have been located in a much better position so that more people could see – like the one on Blackheath was. Some of our friends stayed over and we took them into Greenwich Town Centre as they hadn’t been before – the market was incredibly quiet for a Saturday. Some of the traders were saying it was very disappointing. Great shame if all of that traffic doesn’t benefit the area.

  2. Spoke to the market traders on Saturday – a few of the food stalls had even taken on extra help and there was a lot of food prepared but it was the quietest I’ve ever seen it on a sunny day. To be fair I think the travel scare stories meant everyone stayed home (amazingly I was the only person on a whole tube carriage going north from Kings Cross at 3pm the same day!) but it would help if the spectators weren’t herded quite as briskly between station and venue and were allowed to wander about just a little bit.

  3. It was far too crowded at ORNC – rather stupidly deckchairs were in use taking up lots of space and blocking views, and security not letting people in. So retreated to the Spanish Galleon, whose two downstairs screens weren’t loud enough, but they then opened a room upstairs, where we watched most of the show very comfortably (and no queues for loos), though drinks were expensive, and they had to chuck us out before midnight, which seemed rather short-sighted. So we returned to the ORNC which was even more packed than before with tons of people sitting and standing outside the barriers. There was a good atmosphere, but we had a row with some women who had plenty of space in front of them and objected when we went into it (it turned out they’d come from Plumstead, so we suggested they should’ve been in Woolwich)…There was some rather bad crowd control going on using Heathrow-style penning so we escaped before the stampede (eg when Paul McCartney came on) and got a nightcap at the Admiral Hardy who’d had a band on. A great night all in all.

    We thought Blackheath may have been a better bet, but your pic shows deckchairs and barriers there too, so probably not so good either if you couldn’t get to the site by 6pm to stake your piece of grass!

  4. I watched the ceremony at a friend’s house but the set-up down at the big screen in Woolwich looks pretty good. There’s a few stalls and they’ve put out rows of chairs for spectators. I did feel for the stewards yesterday though, as they quickly had to cover the large [what looks like] papier mache statues with blue plastic sheets using poles when the rain started. Think they’ll proabably have to do that a few more times over the next couple of weeks!

  5. Glance to the left of that picture of the Blackeath screen. People sit gibbering behind every one. Every time someone asked to turn up the sound [which it was, to full volume by 10pm], it swamped their living rooms and bedrooms, vibrating putty from the sashes and sparking a mad search for analgesics.

    The screen should never have been placed so close to homes. There are wide swathes of heath north of the church being used by the fair which would have allowed the volume to be cranked up and give spectators far more room.

    Roll on annual pop concerts on the other side of the heath.

  6. Looked like the Peninsular Festival site is being wound down today when I went past on the bus this evening ? (Tues 31st)

  7. We went down to the Royal Naval College set up and had a brilliant time.. we choose to sit just out side the white picket fences which allowed us to pop into (local) shops in Greenwich centre to get refreshments (cheaper alcohol!) and ducked in and out of the fenced area to get food from the stalls admittedly just before it must have got to capacity. The atmosphere was amazing and they turned up the sound when asked by the crowd. Being able to use one of the last remaining open space in the centre of Greenwich and the atmosphere all us locals gave to the nights events more than made up for any niggles we may have experienced in my opinion!

Comments are closed.