Of all the cynical moves by the commercial Olympic juggernaut in London over the years, the decision to drop Tower Hamlets from the marathon route was among the most disgraceful. Lord Coe had gone to Singapore 2005 using kids from this borough to persuade the IOC of the legacy benefits the 2012 Games would bring.
After we won, politicians started going all gooey about the thought of the marathon passing along the A11 through Whitechapel,Mile End and Bow. There was even talk of renaming the entire road the Olympic Boulevard before the IOC said that would be against their copyright rules. Instead, it was dubbed High Street 2012 and there was lots of talk of using the event to spruce things up.
During this time, Lord Coe was probably wondering what he’d got himself into: did worldwide TV audiences really want to see grotty Tower Hamlets buildings as the backdrop? He decided No and announced two years ago that the traffic logistics meant the route was not feasible.
Tower Hamlets council quite rightly prepared to take Coe to court under a judicial review. Coe got worried and in May last year, Mayor Lutfur Rahman announced a major deal with the Locog chairman: that in return for dropping the legal case, which the council was tipped to win, Tower Hamlets would be the first London borough to welcome the Olympic torch when it arrived in the capital a week before the opening of the Games on July 27.
Here’s what the Wharf reported last year:
The Olympic Torch will hit the capital first in Tower Hamlets after a tour around the country.
The decision was part of a deal struck in February to compensate for the loss of the Marathon route.
The agreement, reached by Lord Coe, chairman of Olympic organiser Locog, and Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman saw the borough reap a number of cultural and employment benefits from the Olympics.
Mayor Rahman, said: “It’s fantastic that Tower Hamlets’ residents will be the first in the capital to celebrate the arrival of the torch in London. It gives everybody in the borough the chance to get involved in the excitement.
“And it’s a great opportunity for us to highlight the unique character of Tower Hamlets – showcasing the borough to the world.
“We’re working with Locog to make sure that the arrival of the torch is an event to remember.”
It will arrive on the evening of Friday, July 20, with seven days to go until the start of the Games in Stratford.
Following its arrival in Tower Hamlets, the Olympic Flame will continue its journey to the other host boroughs – Greenwich, Hackney, Newham and Waltham Forest – before it visits every London borough.
Lutfur should have gone ahead with that JR.
Today, Coe announced the timetable for the Olympic Torch. The full details are on the BBC website here and here. The Torch will be run through Tower Hamlets on Saturday, July 21, at 1.50pm at the Bow Flyover–having just come from Newham and Greenwich that morning.
Hmm. A call to Locog clarifies matters. Technically, Coe is sticking to the letter of his deal with Lutfur because it will actually arrive from Guildford the night before for an evening ceremony at that venue well known for its accessibility to ordinary members of the public…the Tower of London. Not exactly what we all had in mind is it..?
Now, was the Torch, which will go to Greenwich very early the next day, ever going to land in London anywhere but the Tower? I very much doubt it.
Did Coe dupe Lutfur, or did Lutfur dupe us all when he announced that deal last year? We probably shouldn’t care about such things, but there is a wider point about politicians, including Coe, telling us the full story when they spin their lines. It just ads to the cynicism.