On the other side of the fence…

Although I live a nice 3 mile walk along the River Lea from the Olympic Stadium, I haven’t been down there in person to see how it’s changed in over two years. I went down there yesterday to take photos of the Park and of the area surrounding it to see if it has been developed because of the Games. It was a more eventful afternoon than I had planned…

My friend and I were taking photos, found on my flickr account here, of the Park and the area around it. During the short stretch of path by the river we were confronted by 3 security guards, one of whom came around from the other side of the fence and was very aggressive towards us from the minute he saw us taking photos of the stadium. He thought we were taking photos of him (which we had no interest in doing!) and ran round and demanded to look through all our photos to see if he was in any of them. He wasn’t. He and another colleague then walked off without apologising or showing any amount of interest in what we were doing. He also threatened to throw our cameras “in the fucking river”! So, not only does the Olympic Park look like a prison from the outside, the people who work for it behave like prison guards too.

From an up-close, real view of the site and the area around it, it really wasn’t the welcoming place I had expected to see. The Park is a castle that no one can get into with it’s high electric fences as the walls, and surrounding river as the moat. There are houses right next to the river on the other side from the Park that had clearly been there a long time. How must the residents have felt when this fortress was built and the high fences were put up? It gives off such a feeling of exclusion and not being welcome that I can completely understand why so many locals are so angry and feel unfairly treated. There were abandoned houses along the river too, and the water was really dirty and clearly very little money has been spent on the other side of the fence.

Roughly a mile up the river, we came across this house boat who’s owners have clearly shown their view of the Games on their own home.

It’s really given me another take on the park, compared to my lucky tour inside it only a few weeks ago. I’m far more pessimistic now about how the Olympics will turn out and especially how I reckon the locals feel.


About Joe Mason

My name is Joe Mason, I'm a 20 year-old Londoner living in Hackney, a host borough for the 2012 Olympic Games. Through this blog I explored how the Games affected local people. I was part of a group of students taking part in a program called Headstart. Now I use this as a platform for creative writing, audio, film, and digital.
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7 Responses to On the other side of the fence…

  1. chizzle says:

    This is a really great post Joe. I can’t believe they threatened to throw your cameras in the river! Did they give a reason? Well done. Your photos seems to have quite a sinister feel to them.

    • Joe Mason says:

      He said he’d throw them in the river if we took a picture of him. I think he was most worried of an image of him because he seemed off duty and talking on his phone! He was very aggressive… and yes I wanted to try and capture the feeling/mood of the place and it was sinister so I tried to portray that.

  2. Rep says:

    Not pleasant! You don’t have to show anybody what’s on your camera though – if you’re standing in public space or on a public walkway, you are legally entitled to take a picture of anything you can see from there. This applies even if the thing you are taking a picture of is on private property. Next time put your camera away and tell ’em you’ll call the cops if they try and take it!

    • Joe Mason says:

      Oh right! Well, I didn’t have anything to hide and he was refusing to let me walk on and I didn’t have a lot of time so I just showed him the images so I could get on with it!

  3. Great story Joe, and I’m really sorry you had a bad experience with someone trying to bully you. People get frightened and abuse their power sometimes- I hope you didn’t take it to heart. You took some great photos and wrote about a side of the Olympics most people don’t get to see- I look forward to coming back and reading more of your thoughts on the 2012 Olympics in the future.

    Survivor, 2000 Sydney Olympics 🙂

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