This summer time marks the 10th anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic Games. It’s customary right here to recommend that decade has merely flown by, that the years have handed in a blink. In actuality this already looks like an occasion from a special timeline altogether.
It’s not the precise Video games, which is able to stay an exquisite factor, tenderly guarded. It’s extra the staging. Wanting again there’s something jarring concerning the uniformly joyful and empowered response to the opening ceremony, with its ragbag of nostalgia and self-mythologising. Kenneth Branagh pretending to be Brunel. Musical Youth enjoying croquet. Roger Moore inside a cellphone field browsing dial-up web porn. Fiona Bruce and Dizzee Rascal reciting the delivery forecast on high of a large cheddar cheese.
It felt unusual on the time that these photographs of the previous, a sort of John Betjeman acid dream, had been seen as a assured new reimagining of Britishness; that the long run was now huge open, that we might all now velocity off in direction of that horizon on a Union Jack Vespa.
And a decade on that present looks like a jumble sale of end-of-empire odds and ends, a nation chucking the final of the Regency eating chairs on to the fireplace for the leisure – test that VIP visitor record – of Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban and Robert Mugabe.
It seems the fast future wouldn’t be 50,000 nurses breakdancing to Elgar, however one thing nearer to George Michael’s troublesome new materials. The longer term can be a Video games that ran massively over funds, whose legacy isn’t first-rate services or an finish to the weight problems and participation disaster.
Zoom out a bit and essentially the most tangible legacy of 2012 is the profession acceleration of Boris Johnson, the sort of politician who would steal Judi Dench’s Olympic skiffle board and outsource it to a Bosnian crime ring if it suited his private development. Welcome, 10 years on, to the cut-price current, a spot the place the wallpaper has lengthy since begun to peel.
The rationale for providing these miserable observations is that the legacy of these Video games has been within the information once more this week. UK Athletics has been supplied a tempting sum by West Ham to surrender its proper to stage occasions on the London Stadium, a transfer that does make some sensible sense. Though to not Seb Coe, who has recommended it might be “weird” to relocate athletics occasions to Birmingham and that London should maintain its “world-class presence”, which a cynic may interpret as retaining a fig-leaf that this was ever a workable concept.
How you can perceive this mess? A technique is to return to an unresolved criticism. The very fact is London already had a dilapidated world-class facility. It stays a scandal of the London Video games that £9bn was spent with out regenerating the Crystal Palace Nationwide Stadium, an omission that tells us an awesome deal about how such a rich nation is so poor in its bodily tradition.
That is way more than a London situation. It speaks on to the best way sources and entry have been squandered throughout the nation, and the way, if there was any will, this could possibly be modified. Make a journey to Crystal Palace now and the Nationwide Stadium remains to be an exquisite place, a whole sporting village sitting there absolutely shaped, frozen in a stupendous state of decay, all crumbling boulevards and mildewed ramps, a humiliation of house and light-weight and scrolling sight-lines.
There’s the stunningly ethereal indoor centre, a construction you are feeling it’s best to name “Brutalist” as a result of that is what folks all the time say that about precast buildings. But it surely’s not brutal. It’s delicate, with its effective concrete strains, its steep glass panels, the cover of that limitless ceiling.
Down beneath is a pit the place folks play volleyball on sand donated by the 2012 Video games, the sporting legacy equal of giving the gardener the ultimate slice of two-week-old wedding ceremony cake. The stadium itself is a large open house, with flying slab roof and basic leathery orange rice-pudding-skin operating floor. On a Thursday afternoon some blokes had been in there having a kickabout in entrance of 20,000 ghosts.
The actual level is that this place isn’t a relic, however an concept that must be rebooted. The plaque from its official opening by Prince Philip describes it as “Nationwide recreation centre”, and the deep historical past of this place is in these phrases, the notion of sport as a pressure for collectivism and shared enjoyment.
Crystal Palace was one in every of 5 nationwide sports activities centres conceived within the 1950s – Lilleshall, Bisham Abbey and Plas y Brenin survive – as a present to the well being of the nation. These had been locations the place elite services had been accessible to all, designed to foster not simply excellence, however a tradition of exercise and participation.
The 1950s was that sort of time, with a postwar enthusiasm for grownup training, social mobility, state provision. Whereas within the many years since we now have bought our well being and leisure off by the unit. Attempt strolling into any nationwide sports activities venue now and asking for a go on the parallel bars. You’ll be tasered by a personal safety agency referred to as Quanglion.At Crystal Palace non-public entities referred to as issues like Supahealth and PeeplJym are nonetheless attempting to make this beast work, like Star Wars scavengers sifting although the sand for half‑buried imperial cruiser elements. Its actual worth is as a dwelling, crumbling case for an enormous change in coverage on well being and sport.
The Nationwide Stadium must be renovated and maintained, however for its authentic function of open public use. And past that each British metropolis and area ought to have one in every of these. A series of nationwide recreation centres must be the aim of each piece of funding. It may be completed. Iceland selected to maintain its creaky nationwide stadium and use its revenue from Fifa and Uefa to construct all-weather group pitches throughout the nation.
If this looks like extra Olympic-scale fetishising of the previous, it’s price remembering the previous additionally presents some fairly good concepts. Not a lot Gary Barlow singing Let It Be in a taxi created from spam; however the message buried within the crumbling facade of Crystal Palace, of sport as a shared jewel, from a time when the long run regarded like a spot we may all go to collectively.
Author: ” — www.theguardian.com ”