Regeneration is the key for Stratford residents

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The Independent Online

Outside Stratford shopping centre in east London yesterday, a Burma Star veteran, John Davenport, played the accordion as a drunk in a Santa hat danced near by.

The few pennies in the 84-year-old's collection box appeared meagre pickings compared with the £3bn earmarked to cover the cost of bringing the Olympics to London. But the mere mention of the Games brought a broad smile to the pensioner's face.

"I think it is a marvellous idea. It will be marvellous for the children to look forward to instead of hanging around on streets,'' he said. "There is too much trouble in the world at the moment. This would be something good, something to be proud of.''

Stratford's space-age Tube station - with its giant Olympic sign proclaiming "Back The Bid, Make Britain Proud" - is in contrast to the collection of fried-chicken takeaways and cut-price shops outside.

But if Lord Coe and his Olympic bid committee are looking for support for their proposed extravaganza they need look no further than one of the capital's most deprived areas. Yesterday, almost to a man or woman, the multicultural residents of E15 - the proposed location of the Olympic stadium and village - backed the London team in its battle to wrestle the 2012 games from Paris or Madrid.

In her Somali headscarf and flowing garments, Amina Sharif did not come across as an average sports fan but she backed the bid with an enthusiastic nod. Her daughter Kheria, 14, translated: "Mum thinks it's such a good idea. She watched the [Athens] Olympics on TV and she was very interested. She likes swimming and basketball.''

Despite assurances that tickets will be on offer for £30 or less, few here thought they would be able to enjoy the contests live. But it did little to dampen enthusiasm. Even the proposed cost to London council taxpayers - about £240 over 12 years - did not faze them.

"It is unique and will probably only happen once in my life, so the cost pales into insignificance,'' said Laurence Parrin, who was selling £3 watches at a stall.

Most agreed it would be a small price to pay for regenerating a rundown area. "I think the cost would be worth it, especially around here. It does need a lot of work and in Sydney the regeneration made a massive difference,'' explained John Kaye, 24, a learning skills counsellor. "This is an area with some of the lowest qualification levels in London and really high deprivation. Something like the Olympics could make things a lot better.'' Nearby, Eileen Altimas, 69, was chatting to a friend. "Its going to create jobs in the vicinity and there are a lot of people out of work,'' she said.

But, of course, there is always the chance that London will lose out to a better-prepared city. "What happens if they don't get it?" asked a trader, Gregory Ashby, 30. "Will we just be forgotten?''

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