Operation Torch

Tomorrow, Friday 25th May 2012, the Olympic Torch Relay will arrive in Cardiff on its way across the United Kingdom to its eventual destination in London’s East End. Why this is so interesting I don’t know. I think it would be a lot more fun if they made a real race out of it; Olympic Torch versus Olympic Fire Extinguisher, for example. Instead the Bearer of the Torch (and associated entourage of security men) will head into Cardiff from the direction of Newport, run around randomly for a bit in the city to maximise traffic disruption, and then head into Bute Park where it will start off a “free” concert for 15,000 people.

Cardiff City Council has clearly gone a bit berserk in its desire to throw money around and try to create an event to bolster its sense of its own importance. Whatever happened to the age of austerity? We’ve obviously got money to burn!

For example, these Olympic Rings were put up some weeks ago in Cathay’s Park, in front of Cardiff’s fine City Hall:

Quite nice. Very few Olympic events are actually happening in Cardiff, of course, and those that are seem to be attracting negligible interest, so one wonders why it is necessary. It also cost £300,000. That’s about £60,000 per ring.  Just saying.

The preparations for tomorrow’s Bute Park extravaganza have been going on for two weeks, with a huge section (Coopers Fields) closed to the public, the intrusion of dozens of heavy vehicles carving up the turf, and the closure of the cycle paths.

Here’s a view through the railings at the area chosen for the “free” pop concert. Of course it’s not actually free. It’s just the people who are going to it that don’t have to pay. Tickets were apparently distributed by some kind of ballot, although I don’t recall ever seeing it advertised. Nobody I know managed to get any tickets either. I wonder who did? One possible explanation is that there are 15,000 tickets, and the number of people employed by Cardiff City Council is..er…15,000. Coincidence?

The concert venue  is ringed with burger, pizza and chip vans and is sponsored by Coca Cola. Apparently the irony of marking a celebration of athletic achievement in this way seems to have escaped the organizers.

Last night I walked home through Bute Park. The weather was lovely and quite a few people were out in the Park enjoying the sunshine, crammed into the small part near the Castle that is still open to the public. Juggernauts like this were moving in and out of the Park along the footpaths:

Is this really the right way to treat a public park? You could say that it’s a special occasion, but a similar thing happened just a month ago, and no doubt other events will happen throughout the summer. It’s a park, for pity’s sake, not a building site!   The number of heavy vehicles thundering around the footpaths has increased enormously since the decision to build a new road entrance a few years back. The effect on the Park’s environment of all this traffic  has been devastating.

And then there’s this:

As this lorry turned to head towards the South exit of the Park – that’s the one that was supposed to have less traffic through it when they built the new road – there wasn’t enough clearance and it ploughed into the branches of a tree. The person who had been walking in front of the lorry saw me taking a picture and asked me to stop. They don’t want any evidence of the damage they’re doing, obviously.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Coopers Fields will be completely trashed by the 15,000 strong crowd tomorrow night. You can also bet that the Council will do all it can to conceal the cost of clearing up afterwards, even if it does bother to repair the damage. It’s very sad that beautiful Bute Park is being treated in such a way.

In fact I think it’s criminal.

7 Responses to “Operation Torch”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    He is free to *ask* you to stop photographing, but you are within your rights to refuse. What happened next?

    Grass always recovers eventually, and the cost of litter clearance will be negligible compared to the other contracts thrown around. But I wholeheartedly agree that this is ridiculous. If you really want to be a curmudgeon, contrast this year’s Olympic logo with the 1948 one when Britain last held the Games. The 1948 one showed a universally recognised symbol of Britain, the Big Ben tower, together with the Olympic rings and the Greek discobolus sculpture of a discus thrower. A perfect juxtaposition of the relevant symbols. The 2012 logo unintentionally but accurately symbolises a country that is broken and disunited.

    Yours grumpily,

    • telescoper Says:

      The problem is that it doesn’t have time to recover; there’s some excuse for an event every few weeks. And when it rains it makes things worse!

      Usually they “repair” the grass when it is completely worn away by replacing it with turf from elsewhere, which then dies. They’ve been doing this for years in Cooper’s Fields, with the result that it’s in very poor condition all the time.

    • telescoper Says:

      As for the photography, I told him it was a public place and he had no right to stop me. I then just walked off.

  2. Depressed and impoverished Cardiff Council rank and file social workers, care assistants, librarians, road sweepers etc are the last people they want at the Cardiff City Celebrations – PRESENTED BY COCA-COLA. You have overlooked the underlying justification for putting on almost any sporting or cultural event nowadays – for multi-national corporations to make lots of money. Cardiff Council has long seen fit to subsidise such occasions with public money and to deprive Cardiff people of the proper enjoyment of the splendid park entrusted to the Council.

    But just wait for the Olympics themselves – read the nattily titled The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Advertising and Trading) (Wales) Regulations 2012 (see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/wsi/2012/60/contents/made) and you will quickly realise that the Government is intent on cracking down on anyone who might interfere with the Holy Grail of corporate consumerism. SWAT teams will no doubt be on hand to “take out” any pizza delivery lads or buskers in the city centre.

  3. They had the Olympics here in Sydney shortly after I arrived. I am pleased that this means that I am unlikely to see them here again for a very long time. Mind you, it meant there was less traffic on the roads. Just for a couple of weeks, but it was memorable.

  4. telescoper Says:

    After discussing this over lunch, I’ve suddenly started to wonder how, if most of the City Centre is to be sealed off tomorrow afternoon, how 15000 people are going to get to the “celebration” in Bute Park in the first place? Certainly not by car!

  5. gremlins87 Says:

    The companies putting these events on will all be mates of the politicians, a nice little exercise in back scratching. If the clowns can get their faces next to an Olympic logo and get a few favours then they will be very happy.

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