Olympic stadium

Blog: London 2012, you’re alright.

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

I wanted to hate the Olympics.

I spent the past year self righteously bemoaning the folly of a huge sporting event and a hefty bill at a time of great financial uncertainty and a gung-ho approach to drastic cuts in public services.

I laughed heartily at the (still hideous) pink branding and the bizarre mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, with their eerily staring Cyclops eyes and permanent expressions of rage that seem to bore into my very soul.

My friends and I would visit the new Westfield and observe from the big ugly bridge, that the rest of Stratford was cleverly and obviously hidden by giant steel ‘tree’ with gleaming leaves that obscure the tired old shopping centre lest it offend the eyes of affluent Olympic visitors. We scoffed and rolled our eyes at Mayor Boris’ recorded ramblings advising us to change our routes to work and spent many an hour complaining about the crowds and ridiculously draconian sponsorship rules.

Now though, I feel like a bit of a dick for all my supposedly knowing laughter and bile. I confess: I’m bloody well loving the Olympics. That’s right. Please, go easy on me… don’t aim for the face… it’s honestly pretty good.

Have you been to Stratford recently? While a lot of it hasn’t had the super special Olympic regeneration promised – Maryland is still a manky hole of suspicious fried chicken and sticky pavement – the atmosphere is thoroughly different. People are actually speaking to each other and there is palpable excitement in the air. No, seriously.  Friends who saw the torch travel through report a real sense of community spirit and anticipation, and around the park hearing such a variety of languages is pretty impressive.

The park itself is equally incredible, dwarfing the Westfield over the road, with beautiful landscaped gardens and oddly picturesque views of the stadiums. Rather than the bun fight of angry tourists and chaotic cues that I expected, large swathes of it are clear and open, with picnic benches for folk to eat their lunch and friendly guys wandering around with backpacks of beer, giving directions. There is a celebratory atmosphere regardless of the hefty army guys pottering around and the swollen clouds constantly threatening rain.

I’ll never forget the Opening Ceremony or where I was where I saw it (drunk as a lord  shovelling salt and pepper squid in my mouth if you must know) and the genuine excitement at just how surreal and visceral it was. I wanted to hate it, honestly, but I couldn’t. ‘Think of the money!’ I thought, ‘the straining transport system!’ To no avail. My friends and I glanced around, choked out some quiet praise of Danny Boyle and admitted defeat.

While the mascots still fill my insides with a certain amount of dread, it has faded somewhat. Their presence around Spitalfields is pretty funny, their colourful design complimenting the street art of Brick Lane rather than directly contradicting it. Hell, a cuddly one hewn in glittery gold is staring at me now from my bookcase making me feel slightly uneasy.

Yes, the 2012 Olympics is a giant vulgar corporate clusterfuck of unpleasantness, there is no denying. But never have I seen so many really happy people in one place. The world’s largest McDonald’s looms large, a wooden monolith with odours that sting the nostrils from quite a distance while other food options and souvenirs are grossly overpriced – I should be seething with rage, but no, not entirely. The people here are having a great time. If a 30 minute queue for a lukewarm Filet o’ Fish and a few hours watching your country lose at a sport you’ve never heard of makes you happy then great. It made me pretty happy too.

2012 (2)

Blog: 2012 Hours To Go

Sorry cynics; I love the Olympics. I love it so much that I set alarms for 3am to wake up and watch Michael Phelps swim in Beijing 2008. Nothing can dampen my enthusiasm for this year’s home games.

On Saturday night I attended 2012 Hours To Go, a London Prepares event which was sort of marketed as the pre-opening ceremony for the Olympic Stadium, with celebrities. It was hilarious. This was not an event for haters. Martin Kemp raced in a time trial and Lemar zorbed his way around the track to try and win members of the audience prizes. Pure cheese, with Vernon Kay.

Before the entertainment, university-level athletes competed in BUCS Visa Outdoor Athletics Championships 2012, with events like 400m hurdles, 100m sprint, 400m relay, high-jump and polevault.

[nggallery id=2012hours]

Photos by alanchant.com


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Gary Barlow in new M&S advert

Blog: Welcome to Dave’s World

Gary Barlow in new M&S advert


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Ok, I get it we’re having the Olympics and Queen’s Jubilee but enough is enough, something needs to be said. A straw has most definitely broken this camel’s back.  What did it? Although close it wasn’t Cameron and Miliband’s 10 minute speeches telling their anecdotes of the Queen in parliament (by the way, well done on those energy saving light bulbs at Buckingham Palace Ed, that’s climate change sorted), but two nemeses from my youth; Gary Barlow and Jamie Redknapp in the new M&S advert.

This latest attempt by the giant retailer had me retching into my union jack tea mug long before the final scene. It seems M&S have been co-oped into the Tories plan to distract with a series of events desperately trying to convince us Great Britain is wonderful. We had the royal wedding, now the Olympics and Queens Jubilee. Forget the fact there are over a million young people unemployed and a NHS in ruins. We can all wave union jacks, eat strawberries and row our little boats down the stream. It’s all going to be ok, we’re in what I am going to call Dave’s world.

Let me explain, the advert starts off with a rendition of the Beatles track ‘Here Comes the Sun’. I love the Beatles but already I was feeling uneasy, working class hero George Harrison being used to pedal carrot sticks to the Daily Mail reading masses, surely not.

Then enters Twiggy carrying cupcakes topped with union jacks. I get it you’re all British.  Or am I watching an election broadcast for the BNP? The guests aren’t exactly representative of the nation. Oh, I forgot we are in Dave’s world.

The grandpa figure then turns on an old TV made circa 1980’s, displaying guess what, more union jacks, and I really hate to be technical here but since the digital switch over I don’t think that big aerial on top would be picking up much signal.

This outrage continues…  Enter enters Redknapp still wearing rather tight white trousers perhaps from the infamous 1994 FA Cup final suit and a polo shirt buttoned up to the top. He clearly is taking fashion tips from the Only Way Is Essex. Then because this is Dave’s world, we move on to tennis. We know the PM likes a game with his deputy Clegg, which got me thinking my friends and I could play tennis, then I remembered in London it’s amazing to live anywhere slightly a step up from a shoebox, I guess that idea won’t be happening then.

By this point I am desperate for this hellish advert to end before Nick Griffin jumps out of a Union Jack birthday cake. But there is a final twist, throughout the advert the soundtrack  ‘Here Comes the Sun’ hasn’t felt quite right. It’s nagged at me, I should have joined the dots earlier. Of course singing away, there was Cameron’s henchman Gary Barlow. Not resting on his laurels after urging the public to vote for the Tories at the last election and witnessing the destruction of the NHS and mass unemployment, Gary want’s to pedal more crap your way. The message goes something like this; “eat strawberries, cupcakes and drape yourself in union jacks and throw a party and you to can be one to be one of Dave and Gary’s gang”. Personally I would rather stick my head in the nearest incinerator.

So please don’t invite me to your jubilee party, I will be busy reading the Guardian and drinking organic coffee. Firmly living in the real world.