Reasons to hate the Olympics 3: the destruction of East London

A huge amount of common land (football pitches, allotments, public paths) has been appropriated for the Olympic Games, especially around Hackney and Tower Hamlets. In keeping with the spirit of the whole project, this has been accompanied by an increased security presence and a needless heavy-handedness with people looking around the site, as described in the above video.

There has also been a good deal of environmental damage (such as in this article, an issue raised two years ago but I have heard little about it since), to match the quick and profitable erection of shoddy new structures designed to be driven through and parked in.

The financing of this, apart from that which has been stripped from charities and community organisations through the National Lottery, comes from super-rich private investors and large construction groups. Of course, above all since most the money is coming in from abroad, the government has welcomed this.

This is referred to in Iain Sinclair’s wonderful essay The Olympics Scam, now almost four years old, in which he also details the shady practices and official obfuscation that have surrounded the process, the underbelly of the orgy of branding and the heartwarming sport:

In boroughs affected by this 2012 game-show rabies – long-established businesses closed down, travellers expelled from edgeland settlements, allotment holders turned out – there were meetings, protests, consultations. As soon as the Olympic Park was enclosed, and therefore defined, loss quantified, the fence around the site became a symbol for opposition and the focus for discussion groups, such as the seminar convened by PNUK (Planners Network UK) and held at the boxing club in the old Limehouse Town Hall. I attended this public debate and heard the Hackney solicitor Bill Parry-Davies describe, quietly, remorselessly, how, after a series of mysterious fires, Dalston Lane had lost its Victorian theatre and sections of Georgian terrace, facilitating the new transport hub that would service the vital axes, south to the City, east to the Olympic Park. ‘In two houses on Dalston Lane,’ Parry-Davies told us, ‘there were squatters. A couple of guys came to the back door and said, “You’d better get out. Now.” Two days later the houses burned down.’

Nothing slows the momentum, the Olympic imperative. ‘The authorities want a big new station on the theatre site, a huge concrete slab over the railway cutting. That slab cost £39 million. How is it going to be paid for? By planning permission to build a 20-storey tower block right there. Hackney will give the developers half the value of the site, along with planning permission. You build high to achieve a small footprint. Most of the development will be buy-to-let investments, offshore finance. Huge amounts of Russian money. Tenants will move in and out constantly. There will be no community at all.’

Increased house prices and spikes in rent have already started to force people out. New clauses are being written into contracts which oblige tenants to be away during the Games. Flats are being let for as much as £7,500 a week (here). This will presumably die down in the autumn, having only inconvenienced a fraction of the number of those who will watch the spectacle unfold on TV.

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One Response to Reasons to hate the Olympics 3: the destruction of East London

  1. Pingback: Reasons to hate the Olympics, 5: An orgy of advertising | Fight the Landlord

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