Thursday 14 June 2012

Let's get the Olympics out of the way shall we? Catherine Johnson

Ok, I know many of you have already yawned, or worse clicked your mouse and moved on. But they are coming, and living as I do, a hop and a skip from the massive new entity that is the Olympic Park I really can't ignore the games.

Of course I can't help mourning what has been lost, the island of allotments where we had summer barbeques, the mountain of used fridges that soared higher than a house, the acres and acres of empty, ignored space. And actually I am going to make a brief digression here. Poor old London is worn out, every bit of her used up these days, I don't know how many of you saw the Punk Britannia documentary on BBC4, but there was footage of Covent Garden in the late 70s, empty and derelict with grass, yes grass, growing up through the cobbles. I can just about remember it.
 But back to the Olympics. I am not a fan of crowds or sport - much - but the London Olympics are special in my family. In 1948 my Dad arrived in London. He had spent almost a year in disembarked in Liverpool after travelling from New York and Florida and Jamaica, but Liverpool in 1947 wasn't the friendliest place for a Jamaican, there were race riots and he thought he'd come to London, find some work and watch the games. My Mum still has his programmes, annotated with who won what in how many seconds. If he was alive he'd have loved tickets for the athletics, what's more  he'd have told me off for being such a curmudgeon about the cost and the impact and the horrible commercialism.

Enjoy it, he'd say, like everything else, they'll be over soon.


JO said...

I'm with you on this one. I'm not a huge fan, but the Olympics are coming and getting all bah humbug about it doesn't help.

Like you, I'm unimpressed by the commercialisation (though I can't see how else they could do it. And business sponsors everything these days - including literary prizes.)

And I've seen arts and heritage projects lose funds as everything has been channeled into the Olympics - lovely local projects that will never recover.

But if they leave a legacy in the form of great sports facilities for young people, and make it 'cool' to be out there running and swimming and generally being active, then maybe they aren't such a bad thing.

And in the short term - hopefully having London full of people having a great time will rub off on the rest of us.

catdownunder said...

I would mind less if sport was not treated as a form of warfare. I would mind less if sport was not so corrupt. I would mind less if sport really was accessible to everyone and winning was not the primary reason for participating.
I hate seeing kids who will never be top class athletes being sidelined and not being given chance to be part of the team. I also loathe the way so much money is spent on sport to the detriment of the arts and other forms of creativity.

H.M. Castor said...

'Enjoy it - like everything else, they'll be over soon.' What an excellent motto - and as far from my instinctively anxious, doom-laden outlook as it's possible to get... which is precisely why I find it so inspiring! I will try to carry your dad's attitude with me today, Catherine. Lovely post - and no, having worked in Covent Garden 1999-2003 I cannot imagine grass growing up through the cobbles!

Mary Hoffman said...

No, there is no way I can enjoy them but, not living in London any more, it should be just a bit easier to ignore them. And I'll hang on to the being over soon bit!

Caroline Lawrence said...

What a fascinating story your parents have, Cat!

I don't think London is worn out. I think she's like a snake, always shedding her skin. Or like a moulting chicken? New shops pop up and Shards scrape the sky and vacant lots are filled. For the moment we Londoners are in the moulting phase. It's unpleasant and we will have to grin through gritted teeth but afterwards, when everyone has gone home, we will reap a harvest of refurbished train stations and cleaned up bus stops.

P.S. I so prefer the 1948 poster and logo to the 2012 one!

Business Mouse said...

Those allotments, a patch of scruffy beauty of the people, and just for the people. their destruction was a huge loss. Many thanks for passing on your oh so wise father's maxim "enjy it, like everythig else they'll be over soon". It makes one nostalgic for the future.