Saturday, 23 May 2009

You don't know what you've got til it's gone

This excerpt is from a message of support recently received by NOGOE.

"When one of my daughters was about two years old, I remember her taking the heads off daffodils in the garden and then trying to fix them back on again - the promised plan to restore Greenwich Park to its orginal state after an equestrian event shows a similar level of maturity I feel. I hope this is one battle that really will be won".

Thursday, 21 May 2009

In the EU election campaign, the first casualty is the truth

This morning, there are Labour Party Canvassers at local railway stations handing out leaflets about the European elections. Nick Raynsford's photo is on the leaflets (as local MP). If you ask the canvassers about the Park closures for the Olympics, they swear that the Park will be closed only for three days in 2012. Three days - even LOCOG is not making that ludicrous claim.

For NuLabour, as ever, lying and misleading the public is all in a day's work. For NuLabour, the ends justifies the (lying) means.

Update: in the aftermath of the MPs' abuse of expenses scandal, Parliament faces a huge task of regaining the trust of the electorate. Local Labour Party activists still do not get it. In a democracy, it is not acceptable to say that the ends justify the means. This huge task of reinstating the reputation of the UK political system has to begin at the grassroots. No more lies.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Nature helps to heal revealed and concealed pain

Greenwich Park bench dedicated to the memory of Lady Daphne Saunders

BBC Radio 4's You and Yours on 24 April 2009 featured an item on the Olympics in Greenwich Park.

This clip starts with a young mum explaining that she visits the Park three times a week with one or all of her three children. As she has no garden, and there being no alternative within walking distance, she is worried about the effect that closures of the Park would have on her family. She subsequently wrote to NOGOE and, with her permission, her letter is reproduced here because it highlights another point that has been overlooked by the organisers of the Games.
"I always notice something new when I go to the Park and yesterday, a glorious day I enjoyed with my three year old, was no exception. First, I noticed a school group taking their PE lesson near the tennis courts and then at least four or five people using this beautiful space as a place of quiet contemplation and, it appeared, remembrance. When you look closely you can see that most of the avenues and footpaths are lined with seats of remembrance. Where are the people who use these seats as a means of coming to terms with, and indulging, their loss to go during the Park’s closure?

Plus, of course, the Park’s open spaces and beautiful walks, as well as the Pavilion Tea House, are often used by those working with the disabled and mentally handicapped.

I just thought I’d pass on these thoughts so that you can flag them with the powers that be. I don’t know whether more reasons for not closing the Park are needed but you never know".

There are thousands like this young mother. The therapeutic value of the "countryside within the city" that is Greenwich Park is too inconvenient for LOCOG to think about. We know that in this great green space the bereaved find solace, and people convalescing after surgery can take gentle exercise. There are dedicated benches and many young saplings planted in memory of loved ones. Although an assurance has been given that no trees would be cut down, there is no guarantee that these young saplings might not be moved if they are in the way.

The organisers do not understand how much local people love Greenwich Park, as it is, and have no idea of the unique role it plays in the local community. To close the Park, merely to showcase an elitist sport, is an insane idea.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

I spy with my little eye - LOCOG in the Park, up to no good?

Photo credit:

Why were Tim Hadaway (LOCOG's Sport Competition Manager for equestrian events) and some young men in smart suits taking photos of the escarpment at One Tree Hill on Tuesday this week (5 May 2009)? Last year LOCOG gave an assurance to the local amenity societies that there would be no earth-moving works in the Park. NOGOE has asked LOCOG to renew that assurance, as local suspicions are again awakened that "reprofiling" of the escarpement is being planned as part of the cross-country route route.

What are the UNESCO World Heritage Site executive doing, to fulfill their duties to protect and preserve the integrity of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, this Baroque landscape?
From The Royal Parks web site page about Greenwich Park:
Of particular interest are the grassy slopes where the soil is less acidic and more nutrient-rich. A good place to visit is the path that runs diagonally up the south west side of One Tree Hill. Here you can see a mixture of tall grasses and wild flowers and the area is just buzzing with bees, butterflies, grasshoppers and other wildlife. There are also a number of plants of fiddle dock, an unusual plant in the London area
Does Tim Hadaway even know about the fiddle dock or care about biodiversity?

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Olympic 2012 legacy - Greenwich Society - missed point error

In its latest newsletter (May 2009), Greenwich Society chairman Tim Barnes writes,
"there should be a real legacy aspect to Greenwich hosting the Olympic events in 2012. At the top of everyone's list is the redevelopment/regeneration of Cutty Sark Gardens ... There is also talk of pedestrianisation of College Approach ... improvements to the Blackheath Gate and to the area around the General Wolfe statue. So I do not accept the frequently heard refrain that Greenwich will be getting no permanent legacy from hosting the Games."

This is not a Section 106 agreement: just what - in the name of all that's wonderful - has Cutty Sark Gardens, pedestrianisation, etc got to do with sport? Nothing at all. The Olympic legacy is meant to be about leaving sporting facilities that were not there before, for use by the people of the host city.

Friday, 1 May 2009

When is a consultation not a consultation? ("Have Your Say" in the Park, November 2008)

Last November LOCOG held a public consultation in the Tea Pavilion in Greenwich Park, staffed by representatives of LOCOG and Derek Spurr (who is about to start working for LOCOG as an Olympics liaison person). The map - on which to mark what you considered to be the sensitive areas in the Park - was not in use at first and was fished out only when NOGOE representatives made a point of asking for it. A young woman in charge of the map went to some trouble to mark the problem areas and register the reasons on the postcards. By late Saturday, the map was pretty full of stickers all over.

Where is that map now? No one knows. A couple of months ago (on/around 13 February 2009) two members of LOCOG - the Equestrian Competition Manager, Tim Hadaway, and the Course Designer, Sue Benson - were walking around the cross country course with representatives of NOGOE. When it became clear that the course was still going through sensitive areas, the LOCOG people were asked why no notice had been taken of the map in the "Have Your Say" November consultation, to which they replied that they knew nothing about its existence.

NOGOE has taken this matter up with the relevant LOCOG people and, to date, there has been no response to the whereabouts of the map. So is a "Have Your Say" all for show? Not a real attempt to listen?

The other remarkable thing at the "Have Your Say" in the Park were the answers given by different LOCOG people to the same set of questions put by members of the public, which left one with the impression that LOCOG's PR people were just saying anything to make people go away. Three different LOCOG representatives told one NOGOE representative that the lower branches of ALL THE TREES needed to be cut anyway to "safeguard cyclists and walkers". Which is ridiculous: any Park user knows, cyclists use the paths and "roads" through the Park alongside which the trees are set well back so that their lower branches do not have to be cut back. (Clearance for a horse and rider is about 15 feet, a lot more than for a cyclist.)

As this blog reported at the time (Questions for LOCOG I), the prize for the most ludicrous claim went to Derek Spurr for saying that a jogger (human) has greater impact than a horse and rider because in the latter case the weight was more distributed. LOCOG must be desperate: if anyone has any doubts what horses hooves do to turf, watch the racing on tv and then take into account that racehorses shoes are much lighter weight than the shoes the Olympic horses wear. Racehorses actually wear lightweight shoes called racing plates. A Olympics competition horse weighs about half a ton, is moving about 25mph, and its steel shoes are about half an inch thick, with studs fitted to give them extra grip but which churn up the grass very quickly and cause long term damage. A human jogger, who weighs nowhere near half a ton, is wearing shoes made of rubber or plastic. RM/SD

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Why does LOCOG think trashing an ancient Park is preferable to using existing eventing venues?

At Badminton, they have been preparing the 2009 cross-country course for the horse trials (7-10 May 2009):
"the grassland management programme consists of vertidraining to improve drainage and aerate the roots of the grass; soil enhancement with sand and some compost; additional seeding, weedkiller, fertiliser and above all regular mowing during the growing season ... the main arena and warm up areas ... get the same treatment. the autumn or early winter ... Willis Bros start work with anything that is going to disturb the ground, to ensure it is fully settled by the following spring. ... it is important to decide on what test is wanted at a particular site and then use the appropriate portable [jump]if available, rather than list the portables and then design to accommodate them."

It isn't credible that the IOC would find acceptable an Olympic cross-country course in Greenwich Park that was less well prepared than the one at the Badminton Estate. But how do you preserve the Roman and Anglo Saxon remains that lie just below the surface of the ground from your "vertidraining"? And enhancing the soil and mowing would completely alter the grassland character of Greenwich Park.

Furthermore, Badminton has just agreed a new deal with BBC tv for its coverage of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, which has been unbroken since 1956, for a further three years inclusive of 2012. "The new contract will guarantee live red button and broadband coverage of cross country day, as well as a two hour programme which combines the best of the cross country and dressage with previews and the live conclusion of the show jumping." RM/AG