Greenwich Council and London 2012: The end of the affair

It’s always sad when a relationship breaks down – but this one’s got a tale of rejection behind it too. Remember the happy days when Greenwich Council were trumpeting everything Olympic organisers LOCOG said uncritically?

How 2012 would be a “field of dreams” for the borough, to quote its propaganda rag Greenwich Time? With “community leaders” you’d never heard of wheeled out to talk up the Olympics in the council’s puff sheet? Council leader Chris Roberts buddying up to Seb Coe on stage in the Dome?

Oh, such happy days. All gone now with the publication of the price list for 2012 tickets – equestrian events in Greenwich Park from £20, same for basketball at the Dome – and news that there’s no special arrangements for local children to get in for free. This has been a hobby horse of Chris Roberts for some time – and rightly so, because if anyone’s going to get anything out of having the Olympics on our doorstep, it’ll be the kids. But all his buttering up of the likes of Seb Coe has come to nothing.

The deal announced today means 120,000 free tickets will be made available to children across London – that’s only one in eight, and with no allocation for children from the areas affected by the hassle the Games will cause.

Put simply, a 12-year-old at John Roan School, Blackheath – which faces what will be a largely closed-off Greenwich Park – will have no more chance of getting a free ticket to see what’s going on inside than a kid from Sutton or Uxbridge or anywhere else in London.

Chris Roberts claims LOCOG has been cooking up “secret deals” – but doesn’t say with whom.

“Olympic organisers have had five years to plan a ticket allocation which would permit the children of the Host Boroughs to attend the Games taking place on their own doorsteps. Instead seven out of eight schoolchildren will be denied that chance.

“The children of the East End were used by the Olympic organisers to win the bid for the Games in Singapore, they have been called upon endlessly to take part in photo-opportunities to build support for the Games and are even used in consultation groups to advise on how to run the Games and build a legacy.”

“Repeatedly, the Olympic Host Boroughs have offered to buy tickets for their children but have been refused. LOCOG don’t want the authentic East End , they don’t want our money, they certainly don’t want our kids.”

Roberts’ description of Greenwich as “the East End” (huh?) aside, he’s got a point. You can’t blame him for feeling local kids have been royally used – although it’s not as if Greenwich Council hadn’t played a part in this in the first place. To be honest, though, he’s probably feeling abused himself.

But if his council had been a little more assertive in dealing with LOCOG in the first place, we perhaps wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now, with people worrying about works in Greenwich Park taking place with little explanation of what’s going on, fuelling rumours of permanent damage, as well as continued anger about the Olympic Route Network. Instead, though, they were happy to roll over, and now we’ve got an atmosphere of distrust, instead of the harmony the Olympics are supposed to promote.

Perhaps there’s a party political aspect to this too – with a Tory government and a Tory mayor asserting themselves over the games, leaders of Labour fiefdoms like the Olympic boroughs are finding themselves squeezed out. After years of being at the forefront, that’s got to be hard to take. Maybe those “secret deals” were with Boris? Tower Hamlets has already found itself out on the cold, with the shabby case of the Olympic marathon, which raised earlier questions about LOCOG’s trustworthiness.

There’s 651 days to go until that opening ceremony in Stratford – on today’s evidence, strap yourself in for a bumpy ride ahead. Maybe those days will see Chris Roberts and company now challenging LOCOG instead of cuddling up to them. Which might not be such a bad thing.

So what of those tickets? Well, the full list (the PDF is, ominously, held on a Ticketmaster server) reveals that equestrian tickets in Greenwich Park will start at £20, rising to a mystifying £275 for the final. (As someone smarter than me, asked, is that actually on the horse?) Basketball at the Dome will be pricey – starting at £35, going up to a mental £425 for a posh seat at the men’s final – while I do wonder who’ll shell out £50 for a cheap seat at the artistic gymnastics final there. Modern pentathlon in the park starts at £20, while tickets for the shooting at the Royal Artillery Barracks will range from £20-£40. It remains to be seen, though, just how many of these cut price seats will be on offer.

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