(UPDATED 12:45PM with details of Lord Coe speaking to the London Assembly – see below)
Greenwich Council’s pro-Olympics propaganda is pretty laughable, we’ve established.
But this latest piece of anti-Olympics propaganda is even more laughable. Here’s Andrew Gilligan, banging on from his online bully pulpit on Greenwich.co.uk, and in his new berth at the Telegraph. Please, can someone wake me up when the grown-ups start to discuss what will happen in Greenwich in 2012?
So a London Assembly member surveys three wards which border the park – curiously neglecting the fourth, Lewisham’s Blackheath ward – and distributes 12,000 surveys. To reply, people have to fork out for their own stamp. Less than 11% of people surveyed bother to reply. Of which, 68%, say they are “not in favour of the equestrian event being held in Greenwich Park during the 2012 Olympics”.
So, in fact, of the people surveyed, and to be generous, 7.2% of people are against the Olympic equestrian events taking place in Greenwich Park. With 89% of people in Greenwich West, Blackheath Westcombe and Peninsula wards not bothered enough to return the forms in the first place, or ask for one to be e-mailed to them, it doesn’t actually mean very much at all, except for that up to 861 people were motivated and angry enough to buy a stamp to protest about something which is very likely to happen anyway, while up to 392 people forked out to support something which is, er, very likely to happen anyway.
Not exactly a scientific survey, is it? But good enough for Andrew Gilligan, who, like his polar opposites at Greenwich Time, merrily lets no facts get in the way of a good headline.
“It turns out that, in a less-than surprise development, both Greenwich Council and London 2012 have been talking out of their bottoms,” crows Gilligan. But he, by using this wonky survey, is joining the chorus of arseholes he depicts. It’s truly disgraceful, partisan reporting that even a child could see straight through, and illustrates the blizzard of bull which has dominated the 2012 debate in Greenwich.
“There is clearly very strong feeling about this,” said Conservative AM – and Bexley councillor – Gareth Bacon, who conducted the survey. From the results of his poll, though, you could be mistaken for thinking nobody gives a toss.
Actually, I don’t think that’s the case at all. I suspect that outright opposition to the Games in and around Greenwich itself is at around 30-35%. There’s definitely a rump of people who aren’t happy. And there’s a great deal of concern beyond that about the park’s welfare which doesn’t manifest itself as opposition. Gilligan says “active, motivated enthusiasm for the Games in the Park locally is very close to nil” – well, active, motivated opposition wasn’t that far above nil if you’re going on the survey’s response rate. If you live in those areas and got a survey (or didn’t), I’d love to hear from you. My own suspicion is that there’s a lot of confusion and not much knowledge about just what will happen to our streets and our park in 2012, which, to be fair, Gareth Bacon goes on to point out. Unfortunately, the antics of Andrew Gilligan simply add to that confusion.
On the supplementary questions, some 90% of the 1,267 respondents hadn’t had any communication from organising body LOCOG – this was before last week’s Seb Coe letters started thumping onto doormats – and 78% said they hadn’t been invited to any public meetings – despite the fuss over Greenwich Council’s stage-managed meeting at the O2 in December. If you can read anything into the survey, it’s that people are feeling uninformed and maybe taken for granted. Not a great surprise in an area without much local media, but it does suggest that LOCOG have some work to do.
More importantly than any of this, LOCOG’s formal public consultation is now under way with a shop in College Approach open until Sunday (and again from 28-31 October) and a website full of information. Whatever side of the Greenwich Park debate you’re on, if you care about Greenwich, find out what it’s about, and tell them what you think.
12:45PM UPDATE: Lord Coe spoke to the London Assembly this morning, and was questioned about Greenwich Park by Gareth Bacon, the Conservative AM who put together the survey. Bacon played down the “huge majority against” line peddled by Andrew Gilligan, and instead concentrated on the consultation about the Games in the park.
Bacon asked Coe what would change about LOCOG’s consultation with local people, adding that a lack of discussion with residents had resulted in “Chinese whispers building up over the past couple of years”. Lord Coe, who is LOCOG’s chairman, said he was not surprised at the figures in Bacon’s survey.
“The broader point is that you’re right,” he told Bacon, adding that LOCOG now felt comfortable enough to launch a formal consultation, which is starting with today’s launch of the shop in Greenwich Town Centre. “Of course we know we have to communicate. Having worked closely with the experts, we feel we are now properly researched enough [to begin the process].”
“As an organisation, we take very seriously the need to explain what we’re doing,” Coe added. “The legacy of having an Olympic event in the borough, encouraging young people who propbably know little or nothing about the sport in question, is a very important part of what we seek to do.”
Bacon made the point that LOCOG’s consultation had so far simply asked people to “buy in” to the idea of having the equestrian events in the park, adding that the amenity societies did not represent the local population.
“I am aware people tend to be motivated by what they’re opposed to,” he admitted. “But the numbers are so opinionated, it shows there’s been a problem with the consultation process.”
Coe said LOCOG’s consultation could only start once the body had spoken to the amenity societies and other interest groups. “I don’t think we could have got to that point without having gone through that process,” he added.