Today I braved the cold weather and dragged the family to Walton-on-the-Naze, which boasts the second longest pier in England. Size of course is no guarantee of quality (compare Walton's whopper to Cromer's small but perfectly formed offering and you will see what I mean) but go for a stroll under Walton pier and things get a little more interesting, as these pictures hopefully attest.
Over the years the concerete pillars have become so weather beaten, in the distance they look like old timber supports jutting upwards out of the sand. Step under the pier, and it is easy to imagine you are in a tunnel, rather than on the Essex coast.
On one level, Walton has seen better days. Take a look behind the fading grandeur and dereliction though, and some real gems remain.
Going on the basis that politicians usually exaggerate, and that the reality is eventually somewhat different from rosy predictions, take a look at the text of the leaflet the London Mayor has delivered to homes in Hackney this week.
Point 7 of Boris Johnson's leaflet is headed "Ensuring a true Olympic legacy - 11,000 new homes and 10,000 new jobs". That is underwhelming - Hackney has 27,000 households on its council waiting list alone - 11,000 new homes, across 32 London boroughs with similar housing pressures? That is barely a drop in the ocean. No further details are given on the 10,ooo new jobs - are they full-time, part-time, fixed term for the duration of the games itself, or for the wider period of the Olympic building project? How many have gone to local residents in east London, or to Londoners more generally?
I reproduce the rest of Boris' text in full:
"Boris johnson is ensuring we all benefit from the Olympic Games.
Boris has delivered the Games infrastructure on time and budget. A saving of £10 million was made on the building of the Olympic Stadium and he has ensured that existing facilities are upgraded and used wherever possible. Hackney will benefit from the lasting legacy of the Games as 12 organisations have received funding to offer free coaching and Boris has funded seven sports participation programmes".
So far, so modest. That really is it. Perhaps to make sure we do actually think there is some benefit to the whole 2012 shebang the leaflet then adds:
"Thanks to Boris, Londoners will benefit from the jobs created by a £5.2 billion economic boost from the Games."
A few points arise:
1. Boris seems to take all the credit for 'delivering' the Games. Clearly the hatred between the British Olympic Association and London Organising Commitee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has created a gap for one man to heroically organise the entire event.
2. If £10 million has been saved on building the stadium, what has that money been spent on? Where has it gone?
3. Which existing facilities have been upgraded? As a Hackney resident I should presumeably be able to name several - none spring to mind.
4. 12 organisations are getting free coaching out of this. Not much of a return from the biggest sporting event in the world coming here is it?
5. Boris has funded seven sports participation programmes. Again no details, but isn't that the sort of thing Mayor's are supposed to do anyway?
6. What and where is the £5.2 billion economic boost from the Games?All the economic news I seem to hear concerns a double dip recession.
All this is not to single out Boris Johnson as any worse than Ken Livingstone would have been (he isn't it) but to raise the single question:
If the projected gains from the Olympics are so modest now, how modest are the actual gains likely to be after the event?