Dash for gold: Stratford 5 weeks before London 2012

London 2012 Olympic Mascot at Westfield


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On 6 July 2005, in a different economic era, thousands of Londoners packed out Trafalgar Square to await the IOC’s decision on who would host the 2012 Games. A normally stoic city burst out into a strange euphoria when London won, although this excitement was cut short by the terrorist attacks on the Tube a day later.

For most people, the excitement never returned. Or perhaps it didn’t properly exist in the first place. Whatever the case, Londoners’ dinner party chatter about the 2012 Games is hardly reflective of LOGOC’s intention to Inspire a Generation.

The public mood is soured by rumours of looming travel chaos, threats of tube strikes and reports of billions being spent on sports stadiums, ceremonies and silly branding in a time of economic hardship.

Still I’m excited, especially about going to the opening ceremony. It should be an event to remember – this island knows how to put on a decent spectacle after all.

Today I took a walk around the new Olympic Park’s perimeter, starting at Hackney Wick, passing through the flashy new Westfield shopping centre and ending up in Stratford’s original high street.

The area’s seen some major changes, but will the Games realise its promise of economic regeneration? It’s early days yet, but I fear we may have another Canary Wharf on our hands: a soulless but wealthy enclave that refuses to mix with its traditional neighbours.

Maybe I’m being prematurely harsh? I’ll let you decide that for yourself.

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • rennie June 23, 2012, 9:48 am

    No matter how negatively it has or will affect Londoners, I still think it is very exciting to be part of it all. It’s a shame that Stratford has lost a lot of its original character and typical east end vibe – the mash and pie shops are gone etc etc, but this change has been happening over a very long time and not only in Stratford. Look at Camden for example. And Brick lane. I say “Hoorah” to the Olympics!

    • Stefan June 23, 2012, 9:59 am

      I don’t think it’s a bad thing that at least part of Stratford has been cleaned up – it was a bit of a dump to be honest. I think in places like Camden we have lost something. Here, not so much. I just hope that the benefits spill over to the surrounding areas, because at the moment it’s very isolated. But they will apparently bring those scary fences down after the games. And hopefully they won’t repeat the Canary Wharf mistake through having a better mix of people and businesses to give it some vibrancy. So we’ll see.

      In the meantime I should be getting my opening ceremony tickets next week. Yay!

      • Joyce July 27, 2012, 8:17 am

        Hi Stefan, I just read your story. Hm, so busy at work and no time….
        It would be amazing going to the opening ceremony. Wish I was there. I still want to go to the Olympic Games, well have to see when…
        I attended the 2004 in Athens. The atmosphere was fantastic… The only problem was we didn’t get any room; all was sold out, so we slept in the park near the venue (it was a park where gays stay). OMG we did enjoy…and had a wonderful time.

        I envy you…….

        • Stefan July 30, 2012, 7:43 pm

          That sounds like a good adventure though. I must say Friday night was amazing. The atmosphere was explosive with the rowdy crowd and an amazing sound system that sounded like it was ready to lift the roof. I’m definitely glad I got to go!


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