Emma Cowing: Olympic-sized gripe round Hampden way
LAST Thursday morning, I awoke with a knot in my stomach. Lying under the covers, I couldn’t help but wonder if somewhere on the other side of the world, a man in a tin hat was standing in a muddy silo, training an enormous nuclear missile on my house.
Such is the trauma of living a stone’s throw from Glasgow’s Hampden Park, where the previous evening some bright spark had beamed up the South Korean flag as the North Korean women’s football team trotted on to the pitch during the first day of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I am inside Glasgow’s Olympic “ring of steel”. I use the phrase loosely, of course. Despite the fact that the entire area is enwreathed by Strathclyde Police officers (they took over from G4S, you may remember, just a few days before the Games started) there seem to be twice as many car alarms going off as usual.
Back in May, my neighbours and I were invited to a public meeting at Hampden to be informed how the matches would affect local residents.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a French farce film, but by the time I came away from Hampden I felt like I had just starred in one.
The first person I spoke to, who had come all the way from London for the occasion, could not answer any of my questions. We were to be issued with parking permits. The forms had just arrived in the post. Would non-permit cars parked in my street be issued with a fine or would they be removed? She didn’t know. But wasn’t it wonderful that so many people would be coming by public transport? Yes, I agreed. But I wasn’t one of them. I lived there. I needed to park my car.
The next person I spoke to was from the council. No, she said, cars wouldn’t be removed from the street, they would just be ticketed. So the chances were that the streets would be full of cars, and I wouldn’t be able to park anywhere near my house, permit or no permit?
“There are families coming to the Games,” she admonished me. “We can’t have them coming out and not being able to get to their cars even if they’ve parked in a permit zone.”
Then I spoke to a transport representative. Yes, he said, non-permit cars would be forcibly removed. But I’ve just spoken to someone who said they wouldn’t be, I said. She’s wrong. Also, there will be checkpoints. No cars without permits would be getting into the area at all. It was starting to sound like the area round my house was to be turned into a Soviet gulag. Certainly, the contradictory advice resembled the sort of mis-information typically put out by a Communist polit-bureau.
It is a strange thing, living in what amounts to a small Olympic village that is 500 miles from the action. For over two months now, our streets have been adorned with jaunty signs proclaiming LONDON 2012, much to most Glaswegians’ amusement. A pavement along the main public transport route has been swiftly re-tarmaced (needed for donkeys, it was finally done a week before the Games started). For weeks a busy two-lane road was reduced to one lane, adding around 20 minutes on to even the simplest of journeys, so an official car park could be built. An inexplicable new set of traffic lights has sprung up. Oh, and the checkpoints never materialised.
Do I sound like a moany grump? Probably. But I’m far from alone. My neighbours feel the same too. One has had an enormous sign erected outside her living room window, along with a single yellow line painted along the road where she parks her car – all without any consultation by the council.
Another was refused a permit because her husband had sent an incomplete form in. But I’m a separate application, with a separate car, she countered. Nope, sorry, she’d need to apply again. She’s still waiting.
When I first heard the Olympics would have a Scottish presence I was excited that it would be on my doorstep. But instead of engendering goodwill among the people who must put up with the disruption over the course of the Games, we’ve been made to feel like pariahs – irritating inconveniences rather than part of the party. I understand many Londoners living in areas where there are Games venues feel the same.
It’s the ultimate irony. I might be a Glaswegian, but I’ve never felt so much like a Londoner in my life.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 2 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 21 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West