In Search of the Olympics: A Journey from Limehouse to Stratford, a set on Flickr.
On July 5, after I had undertaken the photographic tour of Canary Wharf that I recorded in my previous set of photos, The Power of Greed: Photos of Canary Wharf, I headed north, up to Commerical Road, unsure if I would travel on to the East End or visit the Olympic Park at Stratford. After joining a towpath, which I thought was the Regent’s Canal, which I had travelled the day before, I soon realised that I was, in fact, on Limehouse Cut, the southern end of the 18-mile Lea Valley Walk, which follows the formidable River Lea all the way up to its origin at Leagrave, north of Luton, near Waulud’s Bank, one of the great henges — circular earthen banks and ditches — of Neolithic Britain, along with those at Durrington Walls (near Stonehenge), and at Avebury and Marden in Wiltshire.
Having found myself on the Lea Valley Walk by accident, I took it as a sign that I should follow it to Stratford and the Olympic park, but I had no idea that, after travelling through Bow Common and Bromley in Tower Hamlets, I would suddenly — after passing under the A12 — find myself in what appeared to be the countryside, as the canal came up alongside the River Lea, and there were locks, sweeping views, the extraordinary old buildings at Three Mills, and then, suddenly, the gigantic building site in Stratford that is the home of the 2012 Olympics.
As another stage of my ongoing mission to travel the whole of London by bike, photographing whatever interests me — the buildings old and new, the rivers and canals, the skies and trees, the street art and decay — this journey pitted the traditional infrastructure of London’s waterways with the modem developments that have sprung up alongside it, and, in particular, with the cleansing of history along the Lea Valley and the outrageous and irresponsible blank cheque issued to those erecting the giant Olympics playground.
This monstrous show of vanity, jingoism, paranoia, militarism and corporate overreach will, of course, take long years for Londoners to pay off, and will, for the most part, be a typical Olympic white elephant, with the exception, presumably, of the Olympic village that has already been sold to the Emir of Qatar, one of the world’s richest men, for £557 million, a loss of £275 million for UK taxpayers.
For now, however, work continues at Britain’s most expensive building site, and jumpy security guards have little time for unidentified visitors on bicycles — although I managed to avoid being hauled over for questioning, and I had a much warmer welcome from a bunch of kids outside the nearest pre-Olympic block of flats, who couldn’t understand my curiosity about the vast structures across the river from them, and why I was climbing precariously up a canalside barrier in an attempt to see them better — until I explained that, although they saw the Olympic Park every day, I lived on the other side of London, and hadn’t actually seen it before.
I’ll be uploading photos of my return journey soon, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy these memories of my journey in search of the Olympics.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Richard Osbourne wrote:
Very nice Andy. It’s good to see that London hasn’t completely crushed nature. This is my favourite pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyworthington/7561337368/in/set-72157630556055728/
Kaleem Ibn Dawood wrote:
I’ve done that ride it’s very good have you seen our newest project we will be riding to hajj for charity InshaAllah
Thanks, Richard. Glad you like the photos – and that one you singled out in particular.
I hadn’t heard about your project, Kaleem. That sounds amazing!
Thanks also to everyone who’s liked and shared this. It encourages me to know that some of you are enjoying my photos as well as my words!
Selma Qurshid wrote:
Thank you, Selma. That’s very good to hear.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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