Olympic memories – and hopes for the Paralympics

I must admit that I am not normally a huge sports fan. But the Olympic Games transcend sport (in the same way that Pantomime is more than just theatre, the Proms transcend classical music, and the World Cup transcends football). And for those who have little or no interest in the Games (or in Sport in general) the Games provided all sorts of other fun things to do, and did not disrupt daily life in as bad a way as some had predicted. For those who saw British Horsemen (and women) triumph in the show-jumping in front of the Queen’s House here in Greenwich, or attend an opening ceremony rehearsal at the Olympic Stadium as I did, it was difficult not to be moved, let alone maintain scepticism or disinterest.

Quite apart from Team GB’s Sporting triumphs (which are all worthy of congratulation but I will not recount here), two local Olympic connections can fill Blackheath and Westcombe Park with pride.

The first is that Mycenae House can now call itself an Olympic training ground (Gemma Gibbons, a Charlton resident who won a silver medal in the under 78kg Judo category, discovered the sport through the Metro Judo club, which until very recently used to rent the main hall at Mycenae House twice  a week).

Secondly, I think the “Big Screen” on Blackheath (of which more below) can claim to be one of the best public places in London to have watched the Olympic events unfold for free.

It is also worth busting a few of the more scurrilous predictions that had circulated before the Games:

1 “Travel chaos”

It admittedly was irritating that Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations were partially closed off-peak during the Olympics (though they are back to normal now the Paralympics are in full swing, and canny passengers could travel by changing at Charlton, entailing only a few minutes’ extra travel time). The bus stop closures on the Heath have been irritating (and Labour is now asking for them to be reversed during the Paralympics). And the one-way pedestrian system at London Bridge station (still operating in a modified form during the Paralympic) has made me a devotee of Cannon Street. Other than that Londoners have been able to pretty much commute as usual. Neither the trains nor the Jubilee Line seemed any busier than usual.

2 “Normal life in Greenwich town centre would grind to a halt”

This is news to the people (photographed here) who are sunbathing on the lawn in front of the National Maritime Museum in the middle of the Games. The lawn, remarkably, remained open to those without tickets throughout the Games (only the area by the Queen’s House was inside the security cordon).

There were concerns about crowd barriers disrupting the flow of people in Greenwich town centre in late July. But by the 2nd of August, after traders and the council made a fuss, they were almost all removed.

3 “London would become a police state with anyone without an Olympic ticket excluded from public spaces like the Heath”

Only a small area of the heath was reserved for the Rapier surface-to-air missiles. A much larger area was available to all and sundry as a free spectator zone where Olympic events could be watched on a big screen. An estimated twelve thousand people were there to watch the opening ceremony, and the atmosphere there was electric when I watched Jessica Ennis win the Modern Pentathlon a week later.

Well done to Lewisham council for managing it so well and ensuring there was a great atmosphere. A similar site was available in Greenwich by the Royal Naval College, and in General Gordon Square in Woolwich.

Greenwich Park itself, after a few minor hiccups in early August, has already partially reopened to the public, with an east-west route across the park open from August 14th onwards.

I am off to see the Paralympic equestrian events in the Park this Saturday (September 1st) and can’t wait.

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One Response to Olympic memories – and hopes for the Paralympics

  1. Pingback: After 16 years as a Labour councillor in Blackheath and Westcombe Park, Alex Grant says thank you and goodbye | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

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