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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, June 13, 2008
    The Olympics Scam
     
    In the mornings, there is a clinging, overripe smell that some people say drifts in from the countryside, a folk memory of what these clipped green acres used, so recently, to be. Mulch of market gardens. Animal droppings in hot mounds. The distant rumble of construction convoys. The heron dance of elegant cloud-scraping cranes. Flocks of cyclists clustering together for safety, dipping and swerving like swallows. Hard hats and yellow tabards monkeying over the scaffolding of shrouded towers, the steel ribs of emerging stadia. Early risers, in the privilege of first-use recreation, a smudge of sun burning off the fug of pollution that hangs over a pre-Olympic city, fall into quiet conversation. Ice-cream kiss of almond blossom, bridal abundance of cherry: pink and white. Yellow pom-poms of japonica, horticultural cheerleaders. In a corner, under a high wall that gives away the previous identity of this public park as a decommissioned energy-generating plant, retired workers sway, stiffly and slowly, in t’ai chi ballets.
    Iain Sinclair in scintillating form transgressively circling the blue perimeter fence of the East London area from which locals are now security-barred in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. Tonight instead of going into town to listen to Will Alsop I decided to stay and learn (I imagine) far, far more about art, architecture and the politics of regeneration from Sinclair's article in today's London Review of Books:
    Another film, The Long Good Friday, arrived in 1979, so pertinent in its exposure of the coming land-piracy that it seemed prophetic. It was efficiently directed by John MacKenzie, but the meat of the thing is in Barrie Keeffe’s script, his intimacy with tired ground that is about to be invaded, overwhelmed, rewritten. The advent of Margaret Thatcher was announced, as MacKenzie’s crime fable makes clear, by a slippery handshake of mutually beneficial relationships between local government corruption (‘The new casino’s gone through’), kickbacks to rogue Irish Republicans in the burgeoning construction industry, bent coppers and old-style Kray hoodlums making overtures to the New York Mafia with their lawyers specialising in property and gambling tax. Much of this was documentary refraction: it had happened, it was happening, and it described the future we are now experiencing. According to a persistent urban myth, the gang that robbed the Brinks Mat warehouse at Heathrow on 26 November 1983 quadrupled the estimated £26 million value of the gold bars by investing in riverside regeneration. Swashbuckling capitalism led the way for timid hedge-fund managers and City sharecroppers. The defining image of this era – Bob Hoskins (in the movie) with his sleek pleasure craft moored in St Katharine Docks, Margaret Thatcher schmoozing the Reichmann brothers in Canary Wharf – is the maquette of the proposed marina, the city of towers. A Lilliputian theme park of unimaginable wealth creation. A DIY anticipation of computer-generated presentations for the Olympic wonderlands. ‘Water City’, a new Venice (without the memory-mud of centuries), will rise from the stinking filth of back rivers and green-scum canals.
    Photo: Stephen Gill, from Archeology in Reverse