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I was asked to write a few words about my thoughts on the recent news that the Marathon route for the 2012 Olympics is no longer coming through East London.

Guest post: A runners disgust at Olympic marathon route change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

I have never been what one might call a fitness fanatic, but I have always had an interest in sport, admittedly it’s mainly been as a spectator but I have also been known to try things once, twice if I liked it but the problem with me is I’m a bit of a five minute wonder and never stick at things for too long.

So it is somewhat of a surprise to me that I now consider myself as an active runner and find myself regularly pounding the streets of East London and signing up to race after race up and down the country in an attempt to get fit in time for 2012?

Why 2012? Well I grew up in Newham, and currently live just a five minute walk from where the Olympic Stadium is going up in Stratford and as much as I have tried to resist the urge to get completely caught up in the Olympic Circus, I simply can’t help myself. I have unfortunately been inspired by the power that the games have to transform lives, and running is how it has manifested itself in me.

Now I know this is a big statement to make and I am all but aware of the compromises and battles that are being fought on a daily basis to ensure that East London doesn’t become a victim of this mega event, however I truly do believe that when the games arrive in the summer of 2012 that a whole generation of young people, and possibly many adults too will get caught up in the excitement and will perhaps have a changed perception of East London and themselves as a result.

I think this has already started to happen locally. I ran in the Newham 10K earlier this year. A race headed up by Olympic Medallist Tessa Sanderson, who had organised a series of low key training runs in a local park in the lead up to the big race. This had really worked in terms of getting local people to challenge themselves, and on the day of the race I was happy to see so many normal working class people taking part, and not just the club runners you see at a lot of races.

The route went from West Ham Park, and through the backstreets of Stratford, before looping round the Bow Flyover and seemingly into the Olympic Stadium…I swear I got a lump in my throat as I ran (ok maybe it was more of a jog) into the Olympic Park with lines of clapping construction workers lining the route. If this is how I feel now, imagine what it will be like in 2012 and this is the sentiment that keeps me running on cold raining Sunday mornings, when I would much rather be in bed nursing a hangover.

Which is why I am so disgusted to hear that the London 2012 Marathon may not be coming into East London at all, but instead will be taking a route in central London just so the BBC can get the shots it needs of Londons iconic buildings. But surely one of the reasons for London winning the games, was to regenerate East London, but now it appears its too shoddy with not enough interesting landmarks to virtue the runners making their way into East London and finally into the Stadium. What an absolute shame, as one of the few sporting events that will be free to spectators the marathon really should be finishing up in Stratford, as it is us residents that have had to put up with the disruption over the past few years.

I know that LOCOG have to make difficult decisions and that they are privy to information about the needs of the various stakeholders, but come on let us have something to look forward to. Why not show off the hicklty pickldy nature of East London’s architecture, we have a fabulous history which we should be celebrating and amazing diverse communities of who will no doubt give the 2012 runners from all over the world the most sincere welcome of all.

In the mean time, I will keep my head down, my trainers ready and carry on in earnest with my bid to run myself slim in time for the games, bringing as many people with me on that journey.

  1. September 2, 2011

    Agree totally, am also disappointed as the very essence of an olympic marathon is that, in most cases (Athens excepted) it finishes with a lap of the olympic stadium. For me that is one of the highlights of the games. I don’t think it was changed for additional shots of West London rather I believe it was unease against going through the streets of East London together with a perceived lack of control with runners through these areas. (I was at Stratford to watch the Chinese torch relay… but it came through on a bus!!!).

    I also think the Olympic site doesn’t really feel like an extension of East London – rather it seems like a corporate (read West London) enclave that happens to be near Stratford. Of course the organisers are paranoid about security, rightly so – but it still feels a bit alien. It will be interesting to see how integrated the site becomes with East London proper after the games. The original plan was to be able to lock off access to Stratford in the evenings(!) That was quickly and quietly shelved – nonetheless the site is very much self contained so I suspect it’ll feel more like Canary Wharf than East London for some time to come.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think the olympics in London are fantastic and have provided some lovely buldings and general sporting enthusiasm. But I still think East Londoners are treated a little bit condescendingly by the organisers who still don’t really appreciate that much of the vitality, creativity and rawness of London are to be found in the east. And moreover (and recently compounded by the riots) they have little real trust in the diversity of people in this area. But if no trust is given, no trust is reciprocated…

    • December 18, 2011

      Some interesting comments, I think only time will tell to be quite honest.

      From my perspective, I live so close to the new developmenmt and am quite open to change so see the more positive aspects of whats going on. It sure is interesting seeing the impact of Westfield opening, and how things are progressing as we move ever closer to gamestime.

      However, now that I understand a lot mpore about the transport implications associated with the games, I can completely understand the reasoning behind the marathon moving into central London. It probably should have been communicatued more effectively though.

      I think it is extreamly ambitious to host such a large scale, complex, multiple venue competition like an Olympic Games, right in the centre of such a busy capital city….the term logistical nightmare….does not do it justice. London hosts hundreds of events during the summer months anyway, and so much is being planned for next year, I just continue to observe and hope that the games are safe and succesful in the shortterm…and leave us something to be proud of in the longer term.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] A Runners Disgust (the fat girls guide to running) […]

  2. […] Tessa Sanderson Newham 10K – Held annually for the last 5 or 6 years, in the run up to London 2012, this was the first 10K to go into the Olympic Park. Starting and finishing in West Ham Park and with a number of sporting celebrities in attendance this is definately one to try. Nice flat course with good support from the locals. I’ve done this one twice or was it 3 times? Can’t remember my times but I know one year I ran my fastest 10K, at a rip roaring 1hour6, four minutes faster than 100 year old runner Fahuja Singh. Great for new runners or those wanting a race that doesn’t take itself too seriously. http://www.tsfa.co.uk/newham-classic-10k-run.php […]

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