Archive for the ‘London 2012’ Category
I was in the London Transport Museum shop the other day, admiring the Tube map of Team GB’s Olympic medallists – yours for a mere fifty quid. But then it was pointed out to me – something was missing…
Yup, the DLR’s retreated north of the river for the first time in 13 years. Still, it’s not like they held any Olympic events around here, is it? Oops.
Remember the Olympics and Paralympics on Woolwich Common?
The big shooting halls are starting to come down this week. Hey, some idiot’s already pulled up the cycle path across there, long before Circular Way reopens. But the common’s felt different for the past few weeks anyway – bleaker, sadder.
The north side of Woolwich Common is a terrific piece of wild land, a real slice of the country in the city. But the rest of it’s always felt sad and neglected to me. It deserves to be treated better than being part of a miserable rat-run between Charlton and Plumstead.
Yet the Olympics showed that so much more could be done with the common. There’s a whole chunk of land the Army keeps to itself, which the Games used too (it made a terrific archery venue during the Paralympics, too) – is it time they gave it up, and allowed it to be used for sport?
The transformation of Ha Ha Road from sad rat-run to a parade of food stalls was most striking for me. Last year, at a community meeting about the On Blackheath festival, a woman piped up: “Why don’t you put it on Woolwich Common instead?” I wrote this off as some NIMBY nonsense, but seeing how well Woolwich Common worked as an small-capacity Olympic venue… why couldn’t it hold some kind of community festival?
As before, all the attention will be on Greenwich Park, but there’ll also have to be a bit of work – and a lot of tree-planting – to go before the common’s ship-shape again. But once the grass is growing again, and it’s starting to look green once more, is it time to think of a new future for Woolwich Common?
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?
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.”
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.
Still, shall we retire for some bubbly?
Unfortunately, nobody told the council’s own tribune, Greenwich Time…
I think I’ve overdosed on the Paralympics. I went to the opening ceremony, I saw Oscar Pistorius beaten, and Ellie Simmonds win her second gold. I was there when Team GB got its first gold in the velodrome, and been wowed by judo, sitting volleyball and powerlifting. I’ve seen wheelchair basketball in the North Greenwich Arena, and yesterday I got sunburnt at the Royal Artillery Barracks taking in the archery. More about that later in the week, hopefully.
And on Saturday, I went to see the dressage in Greenwich Park. Tuesday’s the final day of competition, and if you haven’t seen the park as a London 2012 venue yet, then this advice from Kate might be useful. Bear in mind I’ve not been able to verify it, but I’ve heard about tickets being available on the gate from elsewhere too…
Was told at the Paralympic equestrian dressage at Greenwich Park today that tickets are most probably available from 1 hour before the sessions, from the box offices. They only know how many on the day itself.
They are not being pre-sold online as Greenwich Council has apparently put a block on the no of tickets sold, as believe with schools going back, that local transport would not be able to cope. That was the reason given to me by an official at ticketing at the venue today.
Hope this is useful info for anyone wanting to go.
It’s fair to say this summer has had a lasting effect on many of us, although hopefully its impact on Greenwich Park will be minimal. But there’s one thing that intrigues me.
If you’ve been, and walked down from Blackheath, you may have seen this water feature that’s gone in below the Observatory. I imagine it was a water jump on the cross-country, and it’s stayed in place while most of the others have been removed.
The funny thing is – it looks like it’s been there for years. There’s been a few “hold on, that wasn’t there before” reactions to it. So, I wonder – should it stay there? Would having a small, shallow, water feature be a benefit to the park?
Then again, it’s also in the park’s best spot for sledging when it snows, so probably not. That said, it’s interesting that one small change to the park can make you think of it in a different way. I know that one of the equestrian jumps is staying (which one is it?), but are there any changes to Greenwich from the summer of 2012 – aside from an upsurge in local pride – that we really should be keeping?
The Dutch dream has died – the Peninsula Festival is closing after a troubled few days of existence. Just two more events are planned for the weekend, with the site being closed until then.
I also understand that founder Frank Dekker has resigned as a director. He hasn’t responded to an email asking for an update about the festival.
Updated statement. We have had a great time at Eastern Electrics and were glad they were able to make such good use of the terrain. We thank their team for a fantastic day!
Unfortunately for our other planned events, a number of circumstances have not allowed us to deliver the experience that we have promised to many.
In light of these developments, the terrain [sic] will only be opened for two more days: the 11th and 12th of August.
On Saturday the 11th, the Last Minute Artists Collective and unwanted. have offered to transform Area 12 into a circus wonderland with activities for all: The Forgotten Festival. The day will be free of charge and will feature a host of activities for the whole family.
On Sunday the 12th, I Love Jamaica day will be held on Area 12 as part of the celebrations for Jamaica’s 50th year of independence. The event will feature the best of Jamaican food, music and culture. Tickets on the door.
But one thing might not be there – that big screen. Greenwich Council has asked the PF’s contractors to put one up in Well Hall Pleasaunce, Eltham, instead. But what about the money it gave the festival, as whispers of administration fly around? Chief executive Mary Ney isn’t saying in a letter given to councillors (the ones who are meant to scrutinise the council’s decisions), simply saying the council hadn’t released all of the £50k funding.
(Wednesday update: According to Greenwich.co.uk, the council handed out £40k. However, it’s understood the Peninsula Festival is giving out different figures. Why isn’t Mary Ney being more upfront with councillors?)
There’ll be plenty of bones to pick over in the days ahead. If you’ve had dealings with the Peninsula Festival, feel free to get in touch.
If you’re stuck for something to do today (or the rest of this week), Jamaica’s Olympic hospitality house has opened in the Proud2 club inside the Dome. It’s worth a visit for music, Red Stripe, cocktails and all the jerk chicken you can eat. You can walk straight in during the day, and it might also be the second best place in London to watch Usain Bolt later tonight…
Don’t forget there’s also the East Greenwich Pleasaunce fete continuing today, too.
The Dutch campsite on Greenwich Peninsula might not have materialised – with the tents exiled to the outer reaches of Walthamstow – but that hasn’t put off one thrifty set of campers from staying in Greenwich.
Every day for the past week, I’ve cycled past this campervan parked up on the edge of Greenwich Millennium Village, next to the site Oranjecamping abandoned. Every day, it’s in a different spot to dodge the wardens. There’s a French family inside, presumably fans of the gymnastics going on up the road. I haven’t spoken to them yet, but if I see them again I’ll stop and say hello. I hope the wardens leave them alone – dedication like this deserves a reward.
If anyone else knows of any visitors making unconventional arrangements to stay in this area for the Games, I’d love to hear about them…
Close by is the Peninsula Festival site, locked and shut but with some work going on in another part of the land. The Greenwich Council banners are a reminder of the £50,000 given to the venture. It’s due to reopen to the public on Monday, but will it even be ready for the Eastern Electrics festival – with thousands due – on Saturday? That said, it’s looking for presenters for a one-day event next Thursday (how thoughtful to mark my birthday this way!) so if you fancy your chances, go for it!
1pm update: I’ve just got home (from the table tennis at ExCeL, natch) and found the latest edition of Greenwich Time on my doormat. This headline from the propaganda weekly shows the council’s reputation-first communications policy falling flat on its face – there’ll be a few hollow laughs in Greenwich town centre at this.
I couldn’t get to take a peek for myself, but from the tellybox Greenwich Park looked amazing during Monday’s cross-country event. The day that some predicted would end in crowd crush catastrophe and equine tragedy ended up as nothing of the sort. Instead, it was the best advert for the area since, er, that ITV documentary with John Sergeant the other night. And across south-east London, thousands of people felt their hearts swell with pride as our park – our park, not just belonging to those who live adjacent to it – took on a new identity, and was showed off to the world.
No mysterious holes opening up in the ground, no sewer collapses, no shortages of water, and no bio-terrorist attack requiring the evacuation of an area stretching out to Charlton for several years. All these things seriously predicted by opponents of the Greenwich Park Olympics, still trying to bully local correspondents up until the day of the event. All those things didn’t come to pass, and they’ve been left looking silly, despite their efforts to bully local correspondents for not agreeing with them.
Yet one widespread worry has come to pass – a dramatic drop in trade in Greenwich town centre, as stewards encourage people to go straight between venues and transport hubs. There may well be tourist jam tomorrow, as the coverage encourages visitors, but it’s a thin gruel in central SE10 right now, it seems.
What struck me was the defensive Greenwich Council quote in the BBC’s story from Monday, pinning the blame on LOCOG, just has it has done for the ongoing parking permit mess in this staggeringly self-serving page on its website. That’s the same LOCOG it spent years snuggling up to, of course.
But the council only seems to have reacted once BBC London came calling on Monday, when it could have utilised its clout to help local firms earlier. It’s recruited an army of volunteers, ostensibly to help visitors to the borough (on top of LOCOG’s Games Makers and City Hall’s London Ambassadors).
They’ve been employed to give out a free newspaper called Games Extra, a thinly-disguised copy of The Greenwich Visitor, the free monthly which has proved local papers can still have some life in them. There’s been restrictions on what people can hand out around venues, but the council appears to be exempt.
Instead of advertising in GV, the council decided to compete with it. Like GV, it has a map of local attractions in the middle. It even uses similar headline fonts and has an ad for a skip firm at the foot of its front page. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but not when it’s trying to barge out a locally-run business.
The volunteers have also been handing out leaflets promoting the borough’s attractions as a whole, prefaced by none other than an introduction from council leader Chris Roberts.
All this is part of Greenwich’s terrible habit of prioritising boosting the council’s reputation over anything else. Hence its readiness to point blame anywhere but at itself, its notoriously slow press office, the weekly doses of bull in Greenwich Time, the “Royal Greenwich” banners, and the referring to itself as “the royal borough” like a pound shop Kensington & Chelsea.
This disastrous strategy has finally come to pass during the Olympics. Only a fool would read too much into what goes out on Twitter, but it’s a handy snapshot of the council’s communications policy. Rather than use the short-message medium to promote local businesses, it has provided a running commentary on gold medals won in the borough (other news organisations are available) and retweeted messages warning people to avoid public transport. Clearly the intention was to show off the borough as an exciting place packed to the gills with crowds. But on the other side of the coin, having read all these messages emphasising how busy the place was, who can blame potential visitors to Greenwich from staying at home?
This added to TfL’s notorious messages of doom and gloom – the hated Boris Johnson announcements are now being silenced – while several years of predictions of chaos from certain quarters can’t have helped either.
Thankfully, during Tuesday, Greenwich belatedly started using Twitter to promote local shops, and a meeting was held yesterday to hammer out just what the council can do to help improve things for Greenwich’s shops. Hopefully, this is what’s brought about the barriers coming down. Although the council’s statement still reeks of chest-beating – if the council is frustrated with TfL, why was it retweeting its messages of transport doom and gloom?
A more bizarre situation is the terrible fate of the Peninsula Festival, which has now decided to close its site until 5 August. On Monday night at 9.45, it was closed, dark and deserted.
So much for the £50,000 Greenwich Council coughed up for its community big screen – why wasn’t this promoted by the council’s volunteers standing outside the North Greenwich Arena, handing out council PR material? The place has been the busiest I’ve ever seen it – yet those crowds aren’t going anywhere beyond the cable car station.
This isn’t the time for blame, though. This is the time to put things right. So, what can the council do to rescue matters? What it should have done all along. It should put itself in the background and put local business in front.
No Olympic visitor gives a damn about what’s happening at a school in Kidbrooke – but they do want to know where they can get something to eat, something to drink, somewhere to watch the rest of the action and where they can buy some a present for the folks back home. Something bespoke for each of the three venues – Greenwich, North Greenwich, and Woolwich – would do the trick. It has volunteers to hand out this information – and they can also hand out flyers.
It’s time to bin the council PR, and get doing PR for local businesses instead. It’s time to pull together and support Greenwich’s businesses. Wednesday’s a rest day for the equestrian contests – but Thursday or Friday would also be a good time to visit. Or Saturday, Sunday, Monday…
Greenwich has always suffered from a lack of a common purpose – traders often competing against each other, and the council and landlords pulling in different directions. Hopefully some lessons will be learned, and this experience will forge a real sense of unity in SE10.
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…
You’d think with all the military firepower we’ve got surrounding us at the moment we could have done something… oh well, time to prove this ignorant fathead wrong, eh? Bring on the Games!
Places to watch the opening ceremony (show starts at 9pm) – and the next two weeks of action
Greenwich: King Charles Lawn, Old Royal Naval College
Greenwich: Peninsula Festival (Area 12, West Parkside – yes, the site’s starting to look ready)
Blackheath: The Lewisham Big Screen (off Tranquil Vale)
Woolwich: The BBC big screen in General Gordon Square