(ENG) Report from Anti London Olympics



Sunday the 23rd September was a sad day in the history of gardening. It
was the day the Manor Gardens Allotments were closed by the Olympic
Delivery Authority.

It was also the day former allotment holders and many other people
decided to march and demonstrate their concern over the way in which
development and so called regeneration is soaking up much needed green
space. Martin Slavin an Olympic researcher was on the march and comments
“ … so called regeneration projects like the Olympics are more about the
careers of those involved in the Olympic industry, and the profits of
developers and construction companies than they are about improving the
lives of ordinary people”.

The Manor Gardens Allotments, were a little piece of the countryside in
London, and were given to the gardeners of East London by Mayor
Villiers, an old fashioned philanthropist, he was dedicated to improving
the life of working class Eastenders by a transfer of resources from him
(rich) to the people of East London (poor). As well as the allotments,
the Olympic project has swallowed up a huge chunk of land in East
London, most of it compulsorily purchased. The acquisition of the
Olympic Park land is virtually a mirror image of what Major Villiers did
all those years ago.

The compulsory purchase of the Olympic Parkland has been funded by
public money, and as such it can be argued that it should stay in public
ownership, post Olympics, however, exactly what will happen to the land
remains undecided, but both Ken Livingstone and Ruth Kelly have publicly
stated that they plan to bank role the Olympic project by selling off
land within the park to developers when the Games are over. Major
Villiers would no doubt turn in his grave, as his beautiful allotments
along with virtually the whole STATE AREA site is bulldozed for a
project which will most likely result in a transfer of land from public
to private ownership. As the Olympic project runs further and further
into financial difficulty the pressure will be on to claw back as much
money as possible. This will inevitably mean getting into bed with
property developers who, along with the construction companies, will be
the main beneficiaries of a project that has been flawed from the very

An added tragedy to this story is that much what will form Olympic Park
was previously available for use, on a non-income dependent basis, a
cycle circuit, allotments, social housing, football pitches, little
nooks and crannies, were all sorts of marginal business and artists had
found a foothold. There was also a rave scene at Hackney Wick, with
tired and dazed ravers leaving parties on Sunday mornings whilst the
well dressed congregations of the many African Churches filed by. It was
an area that had grown organically over more thaan a century and though
it has some rough edges the area had an authenticity rarely found in
21st century London. This has been lost to what will more than likely be
an Olympic legacy of expensive flats within gated communities, a
sterile, privately owned area similar to the docklands.

It would be impossible to sell the Olympics to the nation for 3 weeks of
sport, it is simply too expensive, so those making their living out of
this project have marketed it on the supposed benefits of a legacy which
remains unplanned. One of the problems is that New labour has control of
the project, it has central government backing and with New Labour also
controlling all 4 of the boroughs in which the Olympic Park is situated,
and with the Olympic Delivery Authority awarding planning permission to
itself the Olympic project can be pushed through virtually unchecked.

Sunday’s march from Hackney Town Hall to the new security gates of the
Olympic construction site was a sign of the public’s misgivings over
this deeply flawed project. After the march there was a meeting where
discussions were held relating to development and regeneration. One
interesting point covered in this discussion was the way these large
projects evolve. First plans are made, then a so-called consultation
takes place and then the work begins. However the meeting agreed that
the consultations were generally a public relations exercise and that
they made little difference to the outcome of projects, which are
usually forced through despite any public misgivings. The Olympics
appears to be a case in point.

Mike Wells
– e-mail: mikejwells@yahoo.com