Sunday, 29 July 2012

Marianne Vos gold medal winner, women's 140km cycling road race, London 2012 Olympic Games

Clouds rolled over London’s 2012 Olympic Games. Thunder rumbled. Rain lashed. But drenched thousands still enthusiastically cheered the women cyclists as they dramatically finished their 140km (87 mile) road race near Buckingham Palace (Day 2, July 29), writes Paul Coleman.
 “I’ve stood here for four hours,” said Freda. “And now it’s all worth it.”
Freda and Johann, both from Amsterdam, began celebrating. They’d just seen their Dutch darling, Marianne Vos, zip past them on Constitution Hill’s purple road surface (above).

Johann and Freda had arrived two hours before the race’s midday start. Totally equipped, their inventory included a tablet complete with external antenna, folding stools, umbrellas, cagoules and sun hats – naturally, all Dutch orange – along with sandwiches, biscuits, fruits, bottled water and mints.
 The trio and the following pack raced by. Freda and Johann huddled over their tablet to watch live coverage of Vos (below, third right) triumphing in her gripping three-way sprint to the finish on the Mall.
  Britain’s Elizabeth Armitstead nabbed the silver – the host nation’s first 2012 medal – ahead of Olga Zabelinskaya, Russia’s bronze medallist. 
 Vos is a special athlete but all 36 cyclists deserved their roadside acclaim. They’d raced phenomenally through London’s city streets and Surrey’s country lanes, enduring driving rain and greasy roads. 
The 2012 crowd had done their bit too. 
“Marianne is wonderful,” said an elated Freda. “We’re off to the sailing next.”

Words and Photos: © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, July 2012.

London 2012 Olympic Games: Opening Ceremony, Danny Boyle, 1908 and 1948, Wembley Stadium, Wembley Arena

London’s £9.3 billion 2012 Olympic Games opened on Friday (July 27) with a £22 million opening ceremony, writes Paul Coleman.
 Director Danny Boyle’s ceremony - an eclectic dash through Britain’s social history - somehow managed to cram in references to the Industrial Revolution, the Suffragettes, two World Wars, and the National Health Service. But Britain’s central 250-year role in the African slave trade was curiously overlooked.
 Boyle’s creation featured James Bond and the Queen herself, the Beatles, Sex Pistols, Muhammad Ali, Mister Bean and Harry Potter.
 Overall, the residual impact of the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony might be likened to sex; sporadically exciting yet basically ridiculous.
 My favourite bit though? Former England football captain David Beckham’s cheeky smile as he delivered the flaming Olympic torch to the Olympic Stadium at Stratford.
 'Becks’ piloted a glamorous, rainbow-lit speedboat along the Thames, skimming under Tower Bridge and cruising along the mile-and-half-long Limehouse Cut - one of London’s oldest and most forgotten canals –  grinning all the way and serenaded by fireworks!  
 Hallucinatory stuff. 

Photos: London staged the Olympic Games in 1908 and 1948.  The old Wembley, known then as the Empire Stadium, hosted the 1948 opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field events. Commemorative 1948 tablets (top) remain displayed at the new Wembley Stadium (below) that hosts nine Olympic 2012 football matches. 

The neighbouring Wembley Arena (below) hosts badminton and rhythmic gymnastics for 2012. In 1948, as the Empire Pool, it staged swimming, diving, water polo, and boxing.

Words and Photos: © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, July 2012.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Tottenham, Seven Sisters, Wards Corner, Grainger update

A number of you have asked me what's happening at Wards Corner in Tottenham (see previous posts). 
 Last night's public meeting in Tottenham (26 July) took the saga further. So, for an update, visit:

Thanks. Enjoy the Olympics.

Paul Coleman, London, July 2012

Monday, 16 July 2012

Monday morning's AGENDA: London, the Doughnut, the Jam and 'Britzerland'

Every Monday morning, I was greeted at the start of my commute by a scratch of evergreen graffiti on the railway station platform. 
'Work > Bed <', it said.
 I'd then board a ram packed train bound for what is now increasingly called 'the Doughnut', 'the Jam' and 'Britzerland'.
 'The Doughnut' means London's core area. Only the better off can afford to live in 'The Jam'. Property analysts says the wealthy are  'doughnutting' central London and other areas into 'Britzerland' - a Swiss-styled haven but one where profits boom from property. 
 'Doughnutting' also entails squeezing people on average and low incomes out of central London.

Market failure or success?
In Camden, for instance, some 14,000 people, including many working long hours for low pay, could be hit by the government's aim to cut Council Tax Benefit in  the central London borough by £2.7 million. If claimants lose their entitlement, they could face unaffordable Council Tax bills.
 "People will find it too expensive to live in Camden," says Theo Blackwell, Camden's finance chief. "It's down to the failure of the market. There are extreme rents in Camden."
 Government supporters say benefits reform is overdue. Non-recipients feel benefit payments are unfair. 
 But, if London's 'prime property market' squeezes out poorer people, it successfully entices the world's wealthy. 

Different planet
A mile or so from Camden's southern border, a spectacular laser show last week helped the Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jabor Al Thani and the Duke of York - Prince Andrew - to officially open the Shard, currently western Europe's tallest inhabited building complete with £10m penthouses.
 Estates Gazette editor Damian Wild says: "It was as spectacular as it was out of step with the diminished times in which we live. But that's the point: Britzerland is on a different planet right now."
 Property market analyst Mike Prew adds his take on 'Britzerland'. "Although geographically it is London, economically it behaves more like Switzerland with its safe haven status," says Prew.

Safe, perhaps, for France's wealthy fleeing higher taxes imposed by France's new centre-left government. Apparently, London is now France's third largest city. Safe, too, for wealthy Greek, Uzbek, Chinese, Indian and Brazilian exiles to take chunky punts on prime London real estate.
 Pre-'prime', oil rich Saudis, City bankers and Russian oligarchs all bought slices of London's real estate. Working Londoners on average and low incomes huddled into lower value homes. But, at least London's property market in the 1970s, 80s and 90s provided these homes in inner London and outer suburban areas, albeit at rising prices.
 But London's 2012 prime property boom now stands accused of forcing many Londoners into exile from their city. Will council estates and lower value private housing gradually be land-grabbed, land-banked, demolished and redeveloped?
 Regeneration 'Opportunity Areas' abound across London now. But for whom will opportunity knock?
 It's too early to say. Journalism might reveal more. But Britzerland Jam has certainly spread itself across the 'Agenda'.

'Agenda' will appear on Monday mornings.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, July 2012

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Inflation hits London's streets; inflated eccentricity, that is...

"Eh? Who us? Oh, we're architecture students," said the young man sat with two young women in the inflatable on New Oxford Street in London's West End. 
 "It's a project to make more creative use of our public spaces," said the young woman wielding the makeshift oar.

Photos: Copyright, Paul Coleman, 2012

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, July 2012

Friday, 13 July 2012

TRACK MOUSE: District Line new trains, Croydon Trams, Victoria-London Bridge, TfL seeks control of West Anglia and Southeastern

Bright, new, ‘walk-through’ S-Stock tube trains, increasingly in use on the Metropolitan Line, will be running on the District Line next year, reports TRACK MOUSE.
  Also, six new five-car Stadler Variobahn trams entered have entered service on London Tramlink in south London, complete with ‘Love Croydon’ livery.
  Train passengers who use South London Line services between Victoria and London Bridge will switch to new East London Line trains from this December. Transport for London say trains will run every 15 minutes calling at Wandsworth Road, Clapham High Street, Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye, Queens Road Peckham, Surrey Quays (passing Millwall Football Club), and then all ELL stations to Highbury and Islington. Some 50 new drivers and other staff have been hired as the culmination of a £75 million project to run the services which will mark the completions of London’s ‘orbital’ overground rail network. Funding came from central government, TfL and Network Rail. (Above photo shows ELL from train cab).
  ELL expansion is part of Mayor Boris Johnson’s ‘masterplan’ for TfL to take control of London’s privately run inner-suburban commuter train services.
The Mayor wants to take control of West Anglia services from Enfield Town, Cheshunt and Chingford, and Southeastern’s network that includes stations such as Herne Hill, Bexleyheath and Catford and north London stations such as Stamford Hill and Highams Park.

TRACK MOUSE, reporting from Limemouse Station, will scurry back soon with more London rail news...

Top Photo: Copyright Paul Coleman, 2010

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, July 2012

Friday, 6 July 2012

Electric 'Dream' Cars in London? A Twizy quartet on Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury

Are 3-pin plug electric cars, like this cheeky quartet snapped in Bloomsbury this afternoon, going to rule London's roads? 
 The guy from the French car manufacturer told me these 'Twizys', assembled in Spain, run for 60 miles before they need "just a three-hour charge". 
 The basic, door-less model, without alloys, sells from £6,700. You pay more for doors, plastic windows and alloys. But there's no road tax and no congestion charge. 
 "I've driven one on a motorway within the London area," our man said on Great Russell Street. "But they're definitely designed more for the city centre."
Pollution-free revolutionary transport, or a cute gimmick? We'll see.

Photos: Copyright Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2012. (Click on image to enlarge).

Paul Coleman, London, July 2012