Enthusiasm for Olympics is failing to catch on in the East End
Wednesday 27 July 2011
With a year to the opening ceremony, opinion is divided among locals living and working in the shadow of the Olympic stadium. There are those who believe they are being pushed out of the area, others who feel they are being hidden and more who declare that life as they know it is being killed off.
Either way, finding a resident who is enthusiastic about the "greatest show on earth" is like searching for a pin in a long-jump pit.
The juxtaposition of old and new is most evident near the gleaming tower of the recently erected Westfield centre in Stratford. Over the road is the more tired looking Stratford Shopping Centre, where a bargain basement market fills the central aisle. "They want to turf us out. We have been here since year dot. It is disgusting," said Philippa Harvey as she served customers at a tie-dye dress stall. Many stall owners fear they will be removed for the great games to make way for the visitors.
"They want to tart the area up while hiding us. I can't see they have the right to take our livelihoods," explained Mrs Harvey, who has worked on the market for 30 years.
"Waste of money," was 20-year-old Steve Warren's blunt verdict as his brother Kenny, 18, and friend Billy Hughes, 19, nodded in agreement.
The pair explained they had managed to gain a carpentry apprenticeship on the Olympic site but it had ended after three months.
"The work was nearly finished so we only got half our apprenticeship. Now there is no way we can finish it. We can't get work because we aren't qualified. It is terrible," said Mr Hughes.
Market trader Yilmaz Ugurel, 66, was a lone voice of optimism. "It should make the area better," he said. "Lots of people will come to the expensive shops. There is going to be more available, like housing."
"I don't know one working-class person in East London who has applied (for tickets). They can't afford it," said shirt seller Norman Williams, 62.
A short train ride to Hackney Wick takes you past the gleaming white Olympic stadium, which contrasts with the surrounding graffiti-covered and derelict industrial units.
"You can see what it has done for this area, it has killed it off," said one worker at a stone yard.
Nearby at Griddlers café Rosie Avietti explained angrily how it had destroyed most of her trade after local businesses were closed through compulsory purchase orders.
The Olympic Delivery Authority responded: "East London has seen a transformation in just a few years, which otherwise would have taken generations. A new urban park stands on land which was contaminated; waterways have been revitalised; transport links improved; a new retail centre has been built, bringing jobs and investment. After 2012, the Athletes' Village will become a new community. There will also be sporting facilities which will benefit Londoners for years to come."
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