Celebrating the City (Part 1)
- Sunday, 18 November 2012
As people who know me will tell you, one of my personal passions in life is Liverpool football club. Anfield, the kop and that song by Gerry Marsden always stir me. And Liverpool itself is a great city going through a dramatic urban renewal.
So why was it that two weeks ago I was in the stands at Fulham watching them play Everton? Well firstly to see Everton (who are Liverpools local rivals) hopefully lose but secondly I have a bit of a soft spot for Fulham. Maybe its their colours (Im a bit black and white in most things in life). Maybe its Craven Cottage, which is a rather friendly little ground on the banks of the Themes. Or perhaps its just the fact that you can actually get tickets fairly easily. Probably its a bit of all of these, but its also the fact that Fulham is situated in London a city I love.
Now London has always been a great city, but when I was growing up in the 1970s it was not exactly a pretty place. The architecture consisted of either dusty Victorian relics of a successful era long gone, or awful second rate Le Corbusier like concrete blocks.
It was grim. Nowadays however London has found a renewed vitality and dynamism when it comes to architecture and urban renewal. Visit Docklands. Or the area around Chelsea Harbour. Or look at the Shard, the Millenium bridge or the O2 arena. The city is positively brimming with dramatic architecture, positivity and most importantly life. I had a day or so down in Docklands recently and its become a mini modern 21st century city in its own right. Go across the river to the O2 arena and take in an event there. The restaurants are full and buzzing and the area feels vibrant and alive. Head back down river to Chelsea and walk around the harbour or just watch the cities skyline. The whole city from east to west is vibrant.
The question is has the Olympics had a significant impact? Well in terms of tourism and visitor numbers everyone will tell you the Olympics has both a positive and negative effect. Positive in terms of the focus and attention the city gets during the games. Negative in terms of other regular tourists tend to stay away to avoid the potential traffic chaos and high prices.
But theres another more important effect that might just be worth the nine billion pound price tag. And thats the effect it has had on Brits themselves. From the opening ceremony Britain suddenly seemed to have discovered its identity again, an identity they have probably been seeking since the days of empire and the dramatic changes that brought about. The opening ceremony, Isles of Wonder, so brilliantly staged by Danny Boyle, seemed to capture the essence of modern Britain. Quirky, creative, humorous, multi cultural, different. The Times described the Ceremony as “a masterpiece” with The Daily Telegraph saying it was “brilliant, breathtaking, bonkers and utterly British”.
London has always been a great city, but a great city thats been through highs and lows. This summer might just have seen its re-emergence as leading the world.