Scaremongering – or Real Threat?

Jonathan has sent me this link to the News Shopper’s take on an issue that Pablito first brought to my attention from the Telegraph about Greenwich Park just being too damn small for the Equestrian events at the Olympics. Do read them if you can, but what the articles boil down to is

  • Greenwich Park is too small. Full Stop.
    This isn’t from locals like us, this is from the riders who’ll have to use it.
  • Nothing will be left afterwards – it will all be removed.(not necessarily a bad thing in my humble opinion – TGP)
  • Sadly much of Greenwich Park’s infrastructures – paths, flowerbeds; possibly ancient trees – will have to be removed to take the temporary stuff.
  • The Park may have to close for a year.
  • Friends of Greenwich Park haven’t heard anything about this.
  • We’re promised a “consultation.”

Now. Is this a spot of scaremongering on the part of those who don’t want the events to take place at Greenwich (‘those’ being – well, practically everyone except the Olympic committee, it seems – many local people who can’t see how it can all be fitted in without massive congestion, damage to the park and loss of important facilities and important historic sites AND the bloomin’ riders themselves who don’t want to have to turn on a sixpence just to get out of their horseboxes) – or is it a real possibility?

Could we actually lose the use of our beloved park for a whole year leading up to the event, and god-knows-how-long after the games with only the assurances of the Olympic Committee (who, let’s face it don’t give a damn what happens after those few weeks in 2012; they’re certainly not planning on using any of the £24m allocated to create any kind of ‘legacy’) that they won’t have trashed it permanently.

Most of me is staying perfectly calm here. It’s a good rallying call for people who care about the history, wildlife, trees, layout and sheer joy that Greenwich Park can give, and giving us a kick up the proverbial backside with a shock is a good thing. But a small part of me is beginning to worry even more about these Equestrian events than I was before. Those trees have survived over three hundred years. They were planted by Charles II. They’ve survived horticultural fashion trends, the arrival of Science and TWO-BLOOMIN’-WORLD WARS. If they don’t have to actually cut them down to get the horses past them, the thundering of hooves will compact the ground to the point where they die anyway.

THERE JUST ISN’T ROOM. For heaven’s sake, Olympic Committee, if you won’t listen to local people, listen to your own athletes. They want to use Badminton or Lee Valley – to create a spacious, purpose built course for huge crowds. They know what’s best for them to win medals. Do you really want the whole of the International Equestrian World grumbling about our rubbish facilities, just so the TV cameras get a nice picture in the background? Shame on you.

There’s one thought I’ve been having whilst writing this, which I wonder whether anyone has actually considered yet. I began to wonder why the games couldn’t just shift a little over onto Blackheath – big open space, lots of room, yada-yada. Then I thought. Of course – they can’t use Blackheath because it’s riddled with holes – as we’ve discussed on numerous occasions – great chalk caverns just beneath the surface that could fall in at a moment’s notice – at the instant of hoof upon ground. A thoroughbred eventer could end up 20ft under the earth’s crust, creating at best An Embarrassing International Incident.

Bet you can guess where this one’s going.

Greenwich Park, too, is full of holes. Many of them man-made, but holes all the same. Those medieval passages may be brick-lined (and of historic value, incidentally) but they are, nevertheless, medieval and possibly not at their strongest any more. Even the youngest are 300-odd years old. And there may be a wall separating the park from the heath but I can’t imagine that the chalk caverns finish at that wall. If the committee insist on Greenwich Park as a venue for pretty’s sake, could they end up with a horse and rider in a hole deeper than Princess Caroline’s bath?

Just a thought. In the meanwhile, I’m taking deep breaths, sticking with the Friends of Greenwich Park’s circumspection, and assuming that this is a story cooked up to fire-up people like me. I confess I have no faith in that weasel-word “consultation.” All it means is that they ask us what we think, we tell them and they ignore us. If it comes down to it, and our Park is either going to be mutilated – or closed for a year or more, I shall be first at the barricades, cloak swirling, pistols blazing and swash buckling…

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