London Prepares: Two Tales of One City


August 31, 2011   |   Posted by The Commission

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The price of fish

Having recently moved into Stratford, I was delighted and surprised to find evidence of a resident badger in the garden.  Its fresh digging, D shaped tunnels and chubby paw prints mean I eagerly await the arrival of a wildlife camera so I can set eyes on the snuffling creature….and dispel my suspicion that it is a cruel joke played on the unsuspecting Aussie by my London friends. My mother has another theory entirely:  she’s convinced that ‘Badge’ is an environmental refugee from the Olympic Park.  I live 30 minutes walk away Mum!  I know those setts are big but I don’t think Boris has extended the superhighways from Bikes to Badgers just yet.

Badgers though, are topical for the Games. At least, they are at Hadleigh Farm where LOCOG recently held its Mountain Bike test event as part of the London Prepares series.  Here, LOCOG had carefully roped off a major Sett close to the field of play after attempts to lure the Badgers to human-dug ‘hotel accommodation’ in the nearby paddock failed to attract stayers (one suspects a poor review in the Badger Daily but who knows?) There are definitely more glamorous occupations than peering in waste bins and down badger holes in all weathers. But when it’s the London Prepares series everything has a touch of glamour, from checking out badgers to the new wastewater pump-out gear in gale force winds on a rocking jetty in Portland.

The experience has been huge: so much learning for everyone including our team as we grapple with understanding what we need to be concentrating on for each of the venues leading up to Games-time.  The London 2012 team have been doing a fantastic job working through risk matrices, ensuring there are appropriate measures in place on site to address these, and dealing swiftly with any incidents that have occurred.  The care and attention they have shown to addressing issues has been impressive.  There are some big challenges ahead and some things still need to be tested.  Making sure all venues are accessible and ticket-holders can get good views whether in a wheel chair or in a seat is a challenge but one which looks like it will be cracked.  Ensuring that people put their rubbish in the right bins is on the other hand a whole new ball game: so straightforward yet so easy to go pear-shaped.  What has been learnt about waste from this series will be invaluable in helping tweak plans to ensure diversion and recycling targets can be met at Games-time.

My one big complaint?  I lined up for lunch at the Park only to find I had around £1.20 left from a tenner after buying a bottle of water and good old blightie fish n chips.  I shudder to think how a family of four will cope with those prices after a day in the Park next year without a strategy to keep prices affordable.  The good news is LOCOG has already said it will provide food at affordable prices for Games-time as part of its Food Vision.  I can’t wait to see this in action as a fabulous way to help low income families have an Olympic experience of a lifetime.

Emma Synnott

August 2011

Horses and bikes

Having worked in the Greenwich area for nearly four years prior to starting with the Commission, I’m well aware of the value to Greenwich Park to the local people and wildlife of Greenwich and the surrounding area. So it was with great interest that I attended the London Prepares equestrian test event.

LOCOG must have put in a good order with someone as the day dawned with bright sunshine [note to self, as you are folically challenged, always take a hat to an outdoor event to prevent turning bright red]. The fine weather provided a great canvas for the park and the equestrians to demonstrate how good they are. Should there be heavy rain in the summer of 2012, some contingency plans might be needed to enable everyone to enjoy the park and event, whilst not leaving a heavy footprint so to speak.

The potential impacts on the ecology of the park have clearly been taken into account by LOCOG. This could be seen in the way key trees were fenced off to prevent people going into these areas, drivers of horse ambulances (that’s an ambulance for injured horses, not a horse-drawn ambulance) were given maps showing where they could and couldn’t go to protect habitat and root zones. Even the stables were designed to ensure that all waste and waste water was able to be pumped out and taken away for treatment. There has had to be work done to make the course suitable for horses and this will need to be restored to the original nutrient poor acid grassland habitat. Plans have been developed for this and we will continue to keep an eye on them.

It was also great to see the local schoolchildren enjoying the event – perhaps not the typical equestrian audience but I hope all those fortunate enough to have tickets for next year can share their enthusiasm.

More recently I went to Box Hill for the hill stage of the road cycling test event. I’m a fairly keen cyclist, although I decided the 100 mile round trip from my house was a little too far to cycle early on a Sunday morning. That said, I’m still a bit unclear about the idea of waiting for hours to see the cyclists go past a couple of times and then going home again. This waiting time was well used by the PA announcer to tell the assembled crowd about the ecological merits of the site they were in and not to leave any litter behind (which was well heeded by everyone there). Again it was good to see that ecological concerns (my main reason for being there) were taken into account by LOCOG, with the most sensitive habitats fenced off.

All in all, it’s been really interesting to see a number of test events in action. I’m getting used to the occasional funny looks when I photograph bins and their contents (getting waste to go in the right bins is still one to be sorted for next year), or trampled grasses, rather than any sporting action. It’s certainly brought home the breadth of different types of venues, habitats and issues involved in hosting the Games. With less than one year to go our attention remains focused on how London 2012 can host the truly sustainable Games that we all want to see.

Jonathan Turner

August 2011

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