I can still remember seeing the joy on Ken Livingstone’s face when London won the selection to host the 2012 Olympic Games, so why wasn’t I jumping up and down for joy with him?
Call me an old cynic if you like, but the legacy of the 2004 Athens Games is a stark reminder of how emotions can change from joy to despair in such a relatively short space of time. The debt that Greece accrued for putting on the world’s greatest sports event was a heavy enough price to pay without the knowledge that the sporting venues quickly fell into disrepair as well.
I’m pretty sure that Ken wasn’t thinking about the sporting side of things when, as Mayor of London at the time, he put the bid in: in fact, I don’t think he even expected to win it. The reason behind his thinking was that the event would focus minds on giving a much-needed boost to rejuvenating a part of East London that was in desperate need of some extra cash, so I think his wide smile was for a different reason to those involved in sport.
I’m also pretty sure that the powers that be were only too aware of what happened in Athens and would have been determined that London’s legacy would be different.
With all this in mind a 500-acre site at Stratford was given the go-ahead as the home of the Olympic Park, the main venue for both the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics.
With the formation of Greater London in 1965, the former Essex county boroughs of West Ham and East Ham were joined together to create the London Borough of Newham.
Joining them was North Woolwich which used to be inconveniently lumped together with Woolwich on the opposite side of the river.
The Thameside areas of North Woolwich and Silvertown are part of London’s Dockland’s, but generally speaking, regeneration has been slower than the areas around the docks nearer to the city centre.
The first major project was the Thames Barrier which stretched across the river between Silvertown and New Charlton. It was designed to protect London from high tides surging up the Thames from the North Sea and flooding the city. Work started in 1974 and took ten years to complete, and up until now at least, has been successful it what it was built to do.