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A legacy of 'no clemency, no kindness'

It's just another very small, very local Olympics legacy story about an Olympic bridge, a second Olympic bridge, across the Hackney Cut canal. The other, the first bridge crossed the canal from the Gainsborough Primary School in Hackney Wick and was used by school children to get to their playing fields at Arena Fields on the east side of the canal. That is it was until the ODA built over the playing fields and demolished the bridge. The plan was to build a new bridge which would rob residents of Wick Village, already suffering from the loss of the green space opposite their estate and the monstrous Media Centre erected in its place, of their canalside open space. That argument continues.

A little further south another Olympic bridge, the second bridge, impinges on another local community, the Eton Mission Rowing Club. The Club had already lost land to the Olympic Compulsory Purchase Order, for the construction of the bridge to allow access to the Olympic Park, making it harder to carry on its activities. Now the LLDC plans to make life even more difficult with plans to construct a lift next to the bridge, taking even more land belonging to the Club.

The Rowing Club has suffered rowing blight since 2005 with new rowers reluctant to join as a result of the uncertainty created by the threat of compulsory purchase and the loss of space to carry on its activities. Now, after one hundred and twenty-eight years of existence Eye on the Park recently reported the Club is warning it faces extinction at the present site if these latest plans are adopted.

"If they shorten the space we have to work in even more," Club secretary Tim Hinchliff said, "we’d be a club that couldn’t store and maintain an eight, and take it to regattas. Well that’s not a rowing club is it? They either have to change what they are doing with that bridge, or they have to move us somewhere else."

It may seem a bitter irony that a rowing club should face such a catastrophe at the hands of a sporting mega event like London 2012. In reality there is nothing extraordinary about this. London 2012 closed children's playing fields at Draper's Field in Leyton and at Arena Fields opposite Hackney Wick and other playing fields at the former Eastway Sports Centre, demolished football pitches at East Marsh, cycling facilities at the Eastway Cycle Track, closed parks or reduced access at Woolwich, Wanstead Flats, Greenwich, Leyton Marsh, while big screens and other events meant much of Victoria Park was inaccessible to non-Olympics users. In the months running up to the Olympics Newham Council saw no contradiction in closing Stratford's only swimming pool and leisure centre.

In an emotional article back in 2011 the 'gentle author' of the Spitalfields Life Blog wrote:

'I cannot avoid saying that the members of the Eton Mission Rowing Club deserve better from the Olympic Authority than this shabby treatment.'

Robert Hall senior, a member of the club for sixty years was more outspoken:

“They have shown no clemency, no kindness, no thought for anyone else’s existence.”


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