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The London Logs: Olympic Village

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | July 18th, 2012 | Comments No Comments

Londoners are expecting 1 million people between the Olympic athletes, media and tourists, Entrance to the Olympic Park“but 1 million have left town so it balances out,” joked Jo, a guide for London Walks’ popular Olympic tour (www.walks.com). I remember when the 1984 Olympics came to Los Angeles and many of us thought the city would collapse under the extra tourism, but transportation never moved more freely. In fact, some of the Olympics traffic-calming measures became permanent policy.

But, I was Olympicked out in 1984. Bird's Eye View of the Olympic ParkHere in London, I haven’t been bombarded by months – years – of Olympics hype, but they’re trying! TV ads for everything from diapers to fabric softener invoke the Olympics, so I can certainly understand Olympic overload. The Danes have arrived!

Nevertheless, I‘m excited! I just learned the torch will run just 2 blocks from where I currently live! Torch-bearers are average Brits who applied for the honor. I haven’t yet figured out who will carry the torch down “my” street, or what time it’s coming, nor have I charmed a second-story dweller to give me a higher view, but I have until Saturday.

I’ve learned I have an even more personal connection to this year’s Olympics: My high school chum Alex Conti will coach the women’s wrestling team! (I didn’t know there was a women’s wrestling team.)

East London is one of the city’s more depressed areas that a £9.3 billion infusion will hopefully revitalize. Newly built athletes’ housing, for example, will repurpose as much-needed affordable family housing, according to the London Walks’ guide. olympics-athlete-housing.jpgA spanking new Tube line features a high-speed rail link to Europe and the athletes’ medical center will eventually serve the community.

Jo has been conducting this tour for 2 years – first once/week, now 2 groups/day stand just inside the restricted area but outside the security gates of the Olympic arenas. When we visited this afternoon, we could hear the musical rehearsals for the Opening Ceremonies.

East London grew up following an 1844 ordinance to restrict manufacturing in London proper. Manufacturing moved east, just over the River Lea, and conveniently downwind of central London. The area took most of the German shelling during WWII as it was the hub of both manufacturing and river transportation.

The docks closed during the 1960s and East London, by then highly contaminated with toxics and chemical wastes, was dismissed as an industrial wasteland. Much of the £9.3 billion spent to prepare East London for the Olympics was spent on waste cleanup, according to Jo, the London Walks guide.

A few Olympics bits’n’bobs:

• As those with sensitive noses will surely know, spectators will walk over East London’s main sewer line, formerly serviced by the Byzantine-style Abbey Mills Pumping Station, built in 1868 and pictured here.Abbey Mill Sewerage Pumping Station

• The sewer line runs right under Olympic Park, so the athletes will be jumping for the gold, silver and bronze over London’s, uh, brown.

• Some of the Olympic events will be held at Greenwich, making this Olympics simultaneously held in 2 hemispheres!

• And my favorite: Since handguns are outlawed in Britain (how civilized!), the British Olympic pistol team has to practice out of the country. Special permits were issued to allow teams to bring in their guns.

London Walks’ boasts dozens of 2-hour walks – including a Jack the Ripper Tour – for £9/each. Watch this space for more reports!
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Category: London, Olympics
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