More than the Olympics

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to watch what may well be the best film to be made on the Olympics. ‘The Games‘, a 15 minute colour HDV film from Optimistic Productions by Hilary Powell and Dan Edelstyn is an at times hilarious staging of an alternative and surreal Olympics filmed on the unreconstucted Olympic site, with a hand-picked team of ‘athletes’ taking part in steeplechase, hurdles, synchronised swimming and more. It starts with flaming torches and ends (more or less) with an awards ceremony. Catch it if you can.

We’ve all heard how the London Olympics is to play a vital role in the regeneration of east London, although I don’t think anyone has yet come up with any remotely credible explanation of how shutting off and concreting over large areas of land currently open for recreational use and producing large and largely unwanted sporting facilities is going to help that much.

There may be some limited infrastructure improvements, although much of those were already on board from the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, with its new Stratford International station. Most of the claimed new housing and some other facilities claimed for the Olympic effect were also already on the way as a part of the Stratford City redevelopment, described as “the most ambitious development within the M25.”

But London 2012 is here and we have to hope for the best, even if it may be madness to expect that to be very much, though we can hope that a few crumbs will fall in appropriate directions. At the moment there is only the pain, as local businesses are forced out of the area and jobs and recreational and sporting facilities are lost, as well as access being restricted. All around the site, high blue fences are being erected to keep us out from July 2. Of course some areas have long been blocked off and well-used paths have already seen lengthy closures for work associated with the games. But the loss of Carpenters Road and Waterden Road in particular will cause considerable local transport problems.

Fences being put up around the Greenway, which should be reopened shortly.

You can see some more pictures from the area taken last Thursday on My London Diary.

Despite all the publicity, the Olympic area is only a small and relatively insignificant part of the regeneration of East London, and a relatively minor contribution to Stratford City. Close by are other large and important projects, in particular at Canning Town and the Royal Docks. The former Pura Foods factory in a loop of the Lea has now been reduced to rubble, and plans for a mixed-use development are close to agreement, with some 1,800 homes, a primary school, shops and more. On the other side of Victoria Dock, planning approval was obtained recently for the Silvertown Quays site, with 5,000 residential units, shops, offices, workspaces, community facilities including a primary school, restaurants and bars and other leisure facilities. This also includes a vast aquarium project, Biota!, in collaboration with London Zoo.

Victoria Dock, SE
Silvertown Quay site and Eastern Quay. The Millenium Mills are to be converted to flats.

West Silvertown already has the Brittania Village development and Eastern Quays, as well as stations on the DLR North Woolwich extension, the Thames Barrier Park and flats at Barrier Point. Two further key sites, Minoco Wharf and Peruvian Wharf are likely to be re-developed before long, although arguments still continue, particularly around the continued industrial use of Peruvian Wharf, and there are more prime riverside sites still to be redeveloped, as well as considerable redevelopment that has already taken place to the east of the Barrier Park, with again more planned.

This afternoon I’m leading a tour around the area, probably in pouring rain. Shortly I’ll post a link to an on-lilne version of this which I hope will encourage others to visit this fast-changing area. It will perhaps take your mind off the Olympics.

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