Interesting looking couple having a sit down in Greenwich Park.
HERE'S an interesting news story you might have missed. According to papers just released under the Freedom of Information Act, Greenwich Council has been misleading us all about the cost of its officials' recent ten-day jaunt, sorry vital fact-finding mission, to the Beijing Olympics.
They claimed to have spent £14,000; in fact, we now learn, they spent more than £25,000. Business-class flights all round, naturally. Newham, the borough where the vast majority of the London Games will actually be held, sent a third fewer people and spent only £9,000, by the way.
As the "consultation" on the deeply risky proposal to hold 2012's equestrian events in Greenwich Park gets started, it's tempting to see the council's extravagance as all too symptomatic of the way it's got the importance of the Olympics totally out of proportion.
No-one at the Town Hall has yet been able to explain how a fortnight of showjumping, behind security fences which no local will cross, can benefit the borough in any way. But that hasn't stopped Chris Roberts, the council leader, claiming it as an historic breakthrough for SE10 on a par with the arrival of the Docklands Light Railway.
It's tempting to see the council's dishonesty about its China jolly in the same light as its bland assurances that the impact of the Games on the park will be "minimal." How can they say that when, by their own admission, they have conducted no impact studies; when, in other words, they don't know?
But look, let's do what they ask for a minute. Let's set aside our cynicism, our negativity, our moaning. Let's admit that the Olympic equestrianism will bring us a superb spectacle. Or, rather, already is bringing us a superb spectacle. Not the showjumping - that can be rather boring - but the magnificent sight of various highly-paid PRs and officials desperately twisting in the wind as they face local residents' questions.
You know, complicated stuff like: how can you claim the park's flower garden will not be damaged if you're going to run the Olympic cross-country course right through it? Or: where are you going to put the stables, the warm-up tracks, the staff accommodation, and the other 300-odd buildings they needed at this year's Olympic cross-country event? Or: what about those 350-year-old sweet chestnuts in the park, planted by Charles II and among London's oldest living things? Are they going to be among the trees that you will have to "prune?"
Such questions, or similar ones, came up last week at the annual meeting of the amenity group, the Greenwich Society, where officials from London 2012 were grilled for the first time by a local audience. Answers, however, were few, and colleagues of mine who were there say that it cannot have been pleasant for the officials concerned.
One interesting note about the local amenity societies is how unwilling they initially were to get involved in the growing local opposition to the Olympic use of Greenwich. Take, for instance, another organisation, the Friends of Greenwich Park. You'd think a body with that name would be single-mindedly against anything which threatens the place they were set up to befriend.
Not quite: the Friends' committee had to be forced into opposing the Games by a special meeting of its ordinary membership, and even now it appears reluctant to follow through. Its chairman has pronounced herself somewhat reassured by the latest bromides from the Council and LOCOG. In this, she must be nearly alone in Greenwich. I've talked to a lot of people in the area about the Greenwich Park Olympics, and I've never met one, outside the ranks of officialdom and committeedom, who is actually enthusiastic about this aspect of the Games.
The fact is that councillors and committee members of amenity societies often have more in common with each other than with the citizens they're supposed to represent. But they are supposed to represent us; and with a threat of this magnitude hanging over our precious park, it's never been a better time for us all to insist that they remember that.
Greenwich resident, Andrew Gilligan, has a to re-assess some of the 2012 venues, including Greenwich Park. The report says that Tessa Jowell has asked KPMG to run a review of the sites in the face of criticisms that the too small or not suitable, as well as offering limited post Olympic legacy.
The controversy over Greenwich Park looks set to rumble on....
Premiership football team Charlton Athletic are organising an afternoon of fun and five a side football in Greenwich Park on Friday. As well as footie action, there will be inflatables to play on, exciting competitions and free goodie bags. The event is being delivered in association with Greenwich Council. No booking is required, just turn up between 3-7pm.
The choice of Greenwich Park as venue for equestrian events at the 2012 Olympics continues to cause concern. Contract Journal has reported that large swathes of the park could be closed for up to 10 months in order to prepare for the Olympic events. Some historic trees may face pruning back also.
Many local residents will obviously be asking the question: is the loss of access to the park and possible damage a worthwhile cost to pay in order to host these events, or should they be held at a venue already capable of holding them?
Find out more about all this on the Greenwich Phantom blog