Olympia’s Nike statue exiled to Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal

The final day of the Games, and Greenwich Council made its own grab for glory by unveiling a statue of Nike, the ancient Greek goddess of victory, in Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal. Not a giant swoosh from the sportswear giant, but a gift from the city of Olympia, where the ancient Games began, to the people of London in recognition of our successful hosting of the modern Games.

It’s a strange choice of location – overlooking Dial Square, birthplace of Arsenal FC, but nowhere near any Olympic and Paralympic venues. As the crow flies, it’s midway between ExCeL and the Royal Artillery Barracks, about a mile and a bit away from each one.

It’s an odd choice to tuck the statue away on the Royal Arsenal site – a favour for the council’s friends at Berkeley Homes, perhaps?

Berkeley is the council’s partner in the Kidbrooke Village redevelopment, while council leader Chris Roberts owns a Berkeley-built property in a gated-off section of the Royal Arsenal.

In fact, the statue’s not even meant to be there in the first place. It was designed to sit on the meridian line, but somehow has ended up in Woolwich.

Indeed, when requesting the gift from the mayor of Olympia, Greenwich Council chief executive Mary Ney said: “We have a number of possible locations within our tourism sites which would ensure the statue was enjoyed by millions of visitors every year.”

(Thanks to Leila Haddou for the full letter.)

It’s fair to say the Royal Arsenal isn’t visited by millions of visitors every year. The Berkeley Homes development is supposed to be a temporary home, but so far no permanent home has been identified, despite the meridian line passing through both Greenwich Park and the North Greenwich/ O2 Arena.

Indeed, if the council had decided to place the statue in Woolwich, why not stick it in General Gordon Square, which has been transformed by the Games’ good vibe and is looking like a success story it has every right to shout about?

But on Planet “Royal” Greenwich, only what gets picked up by a lazy media matters, the reality isn’t really of any consequence.

So a city in a hard-pressed country, whose people have been told they must work a six-day week because of their politicians’ failings, donates an expensive statue to the people of London, on the understanding it’ll be seen by “millions of visitors”. Instead, it gets hidden away on a housing development being built by a private firm which is close to the council, instead of being shown off to “millions of visitors” in somewhere that actually gets visited.

But it’ll still get reported as a triumph by a media either controlled by the council itself, or too lazy to do anything difficult like ask questions.

Still, shall we retire for some bubbly?

11.40pm Monday update: Actually, both greenwich.co.uk and the News Shopper both emphasised that this might not be a permanent location.

Unfortunately, nobody told the council’s own tribune, Greenwich Time…


  1. So true. It’s there for two reasons. The one you mentioned and the fact that the Council always goes ahead with these plans without consulting stakeholders. As it probably doesnt own any land on the meridian they have gone for Plan B. Miight as well change name of Borough to Royal Borough of Berkeley Homes. Brown envelope anyone?

  2. A pity about Berkeley Homes getting in on the act because the current site is actually a pretty good permanent location for the statue – near the entrance to the historic Royal Arsenal and en route to Firepower and the Borough Museum. The sculptor did though seem to be under the impression that it was standing on the Meridian Line.

  3. We love it (RA residents). Would it help if we took lots of photos and put them on Facebook to try and reach the millions?

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