While the world and its singlet waits in anticipation for tomorrow’s opening of the 2008 Olympics, folk in London’s Chinatown are less than excited, claims one report. Money worries mean the 100,000 strong Chinese community packed into Soho’s eastern climes are less focused on the men’s marathon than making ends meet at home.
Rents are heading north, trade has shifted south since the July 2005 bombings, and tourist numbers are down across the city, while formerly bustling restaurants The Friendly Inn and China China have been boarded up in the past couple of weeks. It all paints a rather sorry picture for the community, and one far from the lights and firecrackers that accompany Chinese New Year.
If Chinatown is down on the Olympics, one group that doesn’t share their gloom is London’s 2012 leaders. They’re out in Beijing right now and have been fawning about the scale of the operation out there. “Crikey!” and “Cor blimey!” are only two of the (allegedly) reported exortions squeaked from the slack-jawed mouths of the observers as they gazed upon such architectural marvels as the Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube, and Digital Beijing. In fact, the sheer enormity of what China achieved has led to some “trepidation” in the mind of London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) chief Paul Deighton, who tempered expectations of 2012 matching 2008 in size: “I think the Beijing Games could end up being unique”.
Hopefully it’ll be unique for the right reasons (sport, innit), and not remembered for smog-choked athletes struggling through the Beijing smog while riot police beat up protesters.