The sun shone brightly on Hackney on Saturday July 21st when the Olympic torch – or one of them at least – reached one of the five ‘host boroughs’ of the 2012 summer games [London has 33 boroughs in total]. The Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park [what else could it be called in the summer of the diamond jubilee?] houses the athletes’ village, the main stadium, the aquatic centre, the velodrome [nicknamed the ‘pringle’ because of its snack like shape], the handball arena, the water polo centre, the temporary basketball venue, the Mittel Tower and more.
Four of the five Olympic boroughs –south of the river Greenwich is the exception - share the Olympic park: (i) Newham has the biggest chunk, about 60%; (ii)Hackney, (iii)Waltham Forest [birthplace of David Beckham and Alfred Hitchcock] and (iv) Tower Hamlets have the rest. My borough, Hackney, has the huge media centre: it is large enough for over 20,000 media personnel, twice the number of participating athletes. Irony of ironies, my home borough will also be hosting the IC students working for NBC.
On Saturday the 21st Hackney celebrated the arrival of the Olympic flame by organising a ‘Rio’ style party-carnival-parade. The parade started in Shoreditch, site of two Elizabethan theatres, the ‘Theatre’ and the ‘Curtain’ [archaeologists are busy on the site], progressed up the old Roman road through trendy Dalston to Stoke Newington. Hackney imported carnival experts from Rio, the site of the 2016 games, and the first Olympiad to be held in Latin America. There certainly was an air of Brazilian authenticity about some of the costumes. Unfortunately, the ‘party in the park’ was cancelled because the venue was waterlogged.
Inexplicably, the torch was not part of the carnival. But it did arrive, preceded by vehicles advertising three of the main sponsors [Samsung, Coca Cola and Lloyds Bank], surrounded by security, about 3 hours later, with jazz bands replacing steel bands.
So let the games of the XXX Olympiad begin. Who are we cheering for? The US women’s rowing 8 and the defending gold medal winning Canadian men’s 8 for starters.