Olympic Torch ignores the East EndPosted: April 8, 2008
An account of the invisible torch going through Bow
The good citizens of E3 appeared to have forgotten that the torch was
passing through. But as four o’clock approached, and the buzz of
helicopters filled the sky overhead, a few headed down to Bow Road to
watch the flame go by. Many were of Chinese origin, here to watch a
potent symbol from the motherland passing along their local street.
The vicar was out with his camera, having set his bell ringers the
task of welcoming the flame to Bow (or maybe he just pressed a button
inside the tower, it was hard to be sure). And there were no
protesters whatsoever, not this far out of town. What could go wrong?
The road to the flyover suddenly cleared of traffic and a very large
number of police motorbikes zoomed past. And a van, and another van,
and the Coca Cola open-topped bus. Was the flame aboard? We didn’t
think so. Those grinning Samsung girls were next, keeping up their
professional act as they danced for a crowd who almost certainly
couldn’t afford a widescreen telly like the one on the float. And then
silence. Was that it?
Thankfully not. After a brief interlude of ordinary vehicles, the
empty road reappeared. Yet more police outriders whizzed by, as if
every motorcycle copper in the capital was having a whale of a time
breaking the speed limit in 10 different boroughs in one day. And then
a 4×4, and a couple of vans, and a single-decker red bus. I’d seen
this procession several times before, so I knew the single-decker was
just a support vehicle packed with bottles of Coke and Malvern Water.
More vans followed, and the TV crew lorry, and another single-decker
bus, and a luxury coach, and some more vans. Still we scanned the road
for sight of any open-topped vehicle that might be carrying a beaming
athlete waving a torch. None appeared, only a steady stream of very
normal looking traffic. It very slowly dawned on us, with a distinctly
sinking feeling, that the flame had already passed. Bugger. It must
have been concealed inside one of the unflagged single-deckers, by now
at least half a mile away on the road to Stratford. The vicar and I
shared a look, as if to say “pah!”, and walked away. Here we were, a
community on the very edge of the Olympic Zone, and the authorities
had sped by without acknowledging our existence or even attempting to
include us as part of the celebrations. I do hope that this isn’t a
sign of things to come in 2012, but I fear it might be.