Well, I said I’d copy you in…
Dear Boris Johnson
It’s occurred to me that a bungle has occurred. It wasn’t your fault – this happened long before you came on the scene – but you could help sort it out. In fact, you sort of need to, because the people who dug themselves into this hole are way too deep in it to admit they were wrong – and without someone like yourself who can come in wearing big boots and kick up a fuss, giving them an elegant way out, we could be headed for a real problem.
The thing is, that back in the days when the Olympics were just a few scribbles on a fag-packet, it seemed like a really good idea to bung most of the shebang in Stratford and the North East of London. When it came to the Equestrian stuff, though, somehow the new Olympic Park just wasn’t going to cut it.
Then some bright spark came up with the idea of using Greenwich Park. “Oooooh yes,” said everyone. “That will be pretty. All those TV shots of Wren’s Naval buildings and the Queen’s House with vigorous, thrusting Canary Wharf in the background and the Cutty Sark’s rigging silhouetted against the setting sun over the Thames. They’ll bring in the cash. Lovely. OK. Done. We’ll never get the games anyway – let’s just put that down on the application and move onto the beach volleyball…”
Then it all happened. I was at the Old Royal Naval College the day they announced we’d won. And people were – and still are – genuinely pleased to see the games happening in London.
Trouble was, that now these blue-sky thinkers were suddenly faced with the problem of actually trying to fit the Equestrian Quart into the Pint Pot of Greenwich Park. No one could back down ’cause that’s what they’d promised and by now the TV companies were slavering.
Mutterings and mumblings began. From a few of us locals to start with – not really being able to see how it would all fit in, but, perhaps naively, assuming that it had all been thought-out. But then it started from the athletes themselves. They were concerned that the size of the park would not allow for a proper course to be lain out, especially the cross-country.
So there we were having worried about whether it can be fitted in around all the 300-year old trees, Anglo-Saxon tumuli, Roman remains and Victorian layout – and there they were not seeming to think that it could be fitted in at all – even if all our unique natural, cultural and historical features were chopped out of the equation.
We have to face up to facts – Greenwich Park is just too darn small for the Olympics. Or at least the cross-country events.
But by now, the Olympic Authorities had painted themselves into the proverbial corner. They would lose face if they lost the Royal Park and went to somewhere suitable – and already built, tried and tested – such as Badminton. or Hickstead. Badminton is the athletes’ choice – it would be my choice too, if having the games meant losing our park. Already, alarming reports of the Park being closed for 18 months before the event (and presumably a similar amount of time afterwards too) are gaining momentum. That’s not someone putting up a few spectator stands or a couple of horse-jumps. That’s wholesale destruction.
What’s odd is that the Olympic guys haven’t considered how much face they’d lose if the games went ahead and the place WAS too small – and the rest of the world laughed at us because of our rubbish facilities. (You might care to bear in mind too, that Greenwich and Blackheath are full of holes – secret caverns, tunnels and chalk mines – including many in Greenwich Park itself – let’s not even begin to think of what would happen if some horse and rider ended up in one of them…)
You don’t have the power, I am sure, to put the kibosh on this. But you do have the clout to be able to ask some serious questions and knock a few heads together. Quite apart from the wholesale traffic and other chaos it would cause (I’m personally less worried about that – that’s temporary) this could be extremely damaging to Greenwich’s tourist trade from 2013 onwards. These events really mustn’t happen here.
Not In My Back Park? Yeah, possibly. But this isn’t going to be my back park for ever – and I’m asking you now to give the Olympic Delivery Guys the chance to back down gracefully for all the generations whose back park this is going to be in the future. We can’t just go to the local DIY centre and get a few 300 year-old trees to fill in the holes or get archaeologists to discover new and exciting things retrospectively. We HAVE to protect what we have now.
I understand you’re rather fond of Greenwich. That’s presumably the Greenwich we have now, not what little Greenwich we’ll have left if three weeks in 2012 are allowed to take their toll. Please. Ask some questions. And don’t take anyone’s word for it.
I will be delighted to relay your reply to my readers….
The Greenwich Phantom
Add your own voices, guys, if you feel as strongly as me – and the people who have told me they’ve written to the Mayor today. Don’t wait for ‘someone else’ to deal with it.