Jenni Autry reports that Olympic organizers are being accused of turning the 2012 London equestrian venue into a “quagmire” that remains closed to the public six months on.
Top: The cross-country course at Greenwich Park. Photo courtesy of Tim Holekamp.
An article in yesterday’s Telegraph includes quotes from environmental experts who claim staging the Olympic equestrian events at Greenwich Park ruined the venue, going so far as to say the park “may never be the same again.” The activist group No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrianism (NOGOE) accused Olympic organizers of failing to maintain their original timeline of returning the park to its original state by the end of the year. “This is the only green space within walking distance for many thousands of people and the most popular, accessible part of the park will have been out of bounds for more than a year,” Sev D’Souza of NOGOE said in the article. “We were promised by (the organizers) that it would be back to normal as soon as was possible, but then they employed hardly any people to work on site so the work has not been completed. What we’re left with is a mess.”
The reporter describes the park as a “quagmire” and a “battlefield,” implying that much of the muddy and bare areas where turf has not yet been relaid can be blamed on the equestrian events. So who is at fault here? Should the Olympic equestrian events have been held outside the city, as the activists suggest, or will Greenwich Park recover to its former glory in due time? Let’s break this down. First, the article makes no mention of the record rainfall the UK saw this year. Met Office, which tracks UK weather patterns, says 2012 is on track to be the UK’s wettest year since 1910. We all remember that Badminton was canceled due to flooding and heavy rainfall, and the UK has been continually pummeled with storms since. Considering the Olympic organizers are dealing with extraordinary circumstances, I think it’s fair to ask that environmental groups cut them a bit of slack.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Activists are also claiming that “ancient trees” were damaged during the construction of the cross-country course and main stadium. NOGOE also maintains that the ecosystem of the park has been irreversibly damaged. So let’s get this straight. London, which was bombed for 57 consecutive nights during World War II, survived the Nazis, but the Olympic Games will ultimately prove to be this park’s downfall? I’m not buying it. If the ancient trees in Greenwich Park could weather major explosives during the largest war in the history of the world, I think it’s safe to say the park will live to fight another day. Once Olympic organizers can focus less on building an ark to survive the flooding and more on laying grass seed, I’m confident Greenwich Park will ultimately be remembered as the most beautiful venue and backdrop of the 2012 Games.