This is not column for killjoys: Spear’s welcomes the Olympics to town, complete with its eminently eBay-able torch, re-enlisted drugs cheats, zealous copyright lawyers and caravan of dignitaries grown large on corporate sponsorship who get to zip around London on specially reserved roads. Look upon us, ye Blighty, and despair.
THIS IS NOT a column for killjoys: Spear’s welcomes the Olympics to town, complete with its eminently eBay-able torch, re-enlisted drugs cheats, zealous copyright lawyers and caravan of dignitaries grown large on corporate sponsorship who get to zip around London on specially reserved roads. Look upon us, ye Blighty, and despair.
Perhaps we’re not entirely welcoming, then. Our Discriminator, Alessandro Tomé, sums up the illogic of London bidding for the event very well: ‘Why else would a city like London ever want to stage the Olympics? Is it because it felt bad about the Elgin Marbles? Did London really need the publicity, did it feel it was perceived as a backwater location in need of a spruce-up?’ We accept Ken Livingstone’s motive behind the bid of regenerating East London, a long-languishing project, but how well has this been done? Ross Clark believes that the Olympics have done nothing for property in the area and certainly have not created a new HNW quarter.
As you might expect from Spear’s, we have taken a sideways look at the Olympics and its hullabaloo to try and discern its less expected, less trumpeted but more interesting aspects. As ever, some of the best developments are the results of creative, surprising collaborations: Freddy Barker ferries between Eton and East London on to uncover an ancient and once again modern link between the two. And Josh Spero takes a trip around the Olympic Park with collector and philanthropist Anita Zabludowicz, who is making sure that art, culture and education have a role in Stratford long after the caravan has rolled on.
Ultimately it is towards these subtler aspects of legacy that we should look if we are to consider the Olympics a success for London. The sport is a pleasure — no doubt Whitehall’s mandarins, with their view of beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade, will agree. But they take up a special four weeks (including the Paralympics) — they are not our future. After the overfed quangocrats of the International Olympic Committee have wiped the final morsel of corporate hospitality from their lips and moved their jamboree to Rio, Londoners will finally see what the Olympics have done for them.
While Spear’s has followed keenly the first signs of the East End’s regeneration, from super-hip pop-ups to more permanent luxury outposts like The Boundary, we’re also aware that gentrification often benefits yuppie newcomers at the expense of longer-term residents. Top-down regeneration projects are rarely successful, because they often fail to include the local communities they aim to serve. Only inclusive, community-centred projects will bring about real change for those living in the Olympic boroughs, some of the most deprived parts of the country. But if these projects work, and are able to harness the creative energy and cultural diversity of the East End, we’ll all have something to cheer about. Let’s hope when it comes to this endeavour at least, we break our international reputation for being honourable losers.