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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The 2012 Olympics: Revitalizing East London

Today in a Tesco bathroom, I met a very sweet girl who had an interview to produce books/published materials for a Tim Burton film at the 3 Mills Studios near where we were touring the Olympic sites. I wonder how she did. Between meeting her and the Nashville folk singer on the plane, Tammy Rochelle, I am meeting some up-and-coming famous people. This is why I adore traveling.

So, I've never really been an Olympics watcher, except for Atlanta 1996, when nine-year-old me obsessively clipped out all the swimming articles from the newspaper and made a cardboard collage out of them. Touring the sites where London's 2012 Olympics will be held next summer in Newham, London was exciting. The Olympics require new buildings, such as a 80,000 person stadium, a basketball building, extreme sports center, aquatic center, and housing for the athletes. The area around it, in east London, is undergoing a revitalization. In the Canary Wharf area, they're putting up parks and picnic tables and a walkway along the river. Closer to the Olympic buildings, a 1.2 million square foot mall is being constructed called the Westfield (I think I saw that name on a mall when I was in France). The Westfield will be the largest shopping center in Europe when it opens this fall.

Walking around the Olympic sites, halfway between the past and the future, reminded me a lot of the revitalization in Eau Claire's Phoenix Park as well as re-building the streets downtown. During the five years I lived there, watching the land and the culture go from flat to successful was thrilling. On a much larger scale, I hope the East Londoners who have lived near Canary Wharf and Newham are able to handle all of the changes that will happen due to the Olympics.

Cassie and Beth playing hand table tennis!
Yesterday, day 4, I realized that Camden feels like home now. I can navigate the traffic, know where the stores and tube stations are, and I no longer feel self-conscious about my American accent. You know that voice inside your head that narrates when you're reading or thinking? My head voice has developed a British accent. My language is shifting. My bathroom, to-go, and awesome are morphing into toilets, takeaway, and brilliant. I'll embrace it. For now, I belong here, and I love it here.

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